If I can help somebody, as I pass along…then my living shall not be in vain. – Mahalia Jackson
In honor of his 50 years of continuous servant leadership and dedication to the charitable principles of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the St. Monica Conference hosted a reception in honor of Vincentian Willie French, Jr. on March 17, 2019, which was proclaimed as Willie French, Jr. Day by Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Raised in the Catholic faith and possessing an innate desire to serve others, it was no surprise to anyone that in 1969 Willie French, Jr. became one of the founding members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) at St. Monica Catholic Church in Houston, Texas.
It was evident to French that there were many in the Acres Home community who were experiencing significant shortfalls in meeting their basic needs. Wishing to provide an avenue to more strategically address the needs of these residents, French, who was serving as Grand Knight of the Knights of Peter Claver, St. Monica Council 151, enlisted the council’s Charity Committee to explore the process for forming a Conference of St. Vincent de Paul.
There had already been some discussion for the need of a Conference in the area, so it did not take the committee and French too long to understand that a Conference at St. Monica was the right fit. Joined by 10 other founding members, French successfully petitioned for and established the St. Monica Conference in March 1969.
Over the 50-year history of the St. Monica Conference, Willie French, Jr. has served the organization in every leadership capacity. In 1998, he received the Top Hat Award from the Diocesan Council of Galveston -Houston for his dedication to the mission of providing person-to-person service.
"My main concern in our community is the children and their need for food and nourishment," said Mr. French. "That is my primary reason for remaining as an active Vincentian."
His commitment to the St. Monica Conference and engagement within the Food Pantry it operates is unwavering. Twice a week, you will find Willie French, Jr. picking up groceries for the Food Pantry from local community supporters, such as Walmart and Aldi.
Jarvis D. Johnson, Texas State Representative – District 139 and Councilwoman Amanda K. Edwards, Houston City Council At-Large, Position 4 also extended citations to honor French’s years of service. Society of St. Vincent de Paul leaders in attendance for the celebration included: Patricia Dornak - District 1 President, Gerardo Rivera - District 1 Vice-President and Board Member (pictured on top with Mr. French), and Ruth Githumbi - former SVDP Director of Development.
Former president of the St. Monica Conference Glenn Gonzales, and then President Jackie Strauss were elated to celebrate with their cohort, bestow accolades, and present awards to Willie French, Jr.
About the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP): The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a faith-based, nonprofit organization helping families living in poverty in the greater Galveston-Houston area since 1871. In 2021, we will celebrate our 150th Anniversary of serving the poor. We are a network of 58 parish-based chapters with over 1,900 Vincentian volunteers actively doing Home Visits every day. Stories are submitted monthly by our Vincentians in the form of short reflections of their encounters. Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on trust and friendship. Conscious of their own frailty and weakness, their hearts beat with the heartbeat of the poor. They do not judge those they serve. Rather, they seek to understand them as they would a brother or sister. The Society serves everyone in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, religious belief, or political opinions. *Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.