The Society’s International President, Renato Lima de Oliveira, was in Australia in late March, to meet staff and volunteers and learn about our work.
Renato was elected the 16th President General of the International St Vincent de Paul Society in Rome last year.
Growing up in Brazil, he was involved with the Society from his early years, seeing the wonderful work carried out by members firsthand.
‘I started at the Society as a teenager in 1986 in Brazil when I was in high school. At that time, my only objective was to serve the poor. I found the Conference a sacred place where I could not only serve the poor, but also enhance my religious understandings. It was my best choice in my life to become a Vincentian.’
Renato is particularly interested in youth development and services that help children and young adults living in poverty or disadvantage – part of the early intervention philosophy of the Society.
In Canberra he visited the National and Canberra/Goulburn offices. Renato also had time to meet staff and volunteers at the Vinnies retail shop, at Dickson, before he served lunch at the Blue Door, a drop in centre at Ainslie.
In Sydney a busy itinerary saw Renato visit services run by the Society in the city’s inner-east, including the Matthew Talbot Hostel; the Ozanam Learning Centre, and Frederick House and Palliative Care Unit.
Renato also took in a Manly to Circular Quay ferry ride, and walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
An afternoon at the Society’s Youth Reach Broken Bay centre, in northern Sydney, saw Renato completely at ease with young people, staff and volunteers, who welcomed him with a barbecue.
The centre is a special works of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which delivers care and support for young people aged 11 to 24, who are at risk of homelessness or disengaging from the community. Services include recreational programs, resume and employment advice, and even barista training.
While looking at the centre’s music studio, Renato jumped at the opportunity to try out his DJ skills, and even sang two songs, including Matt Maher’s ‘Lord, I need you.’