St. Vincent de Paul in the early years

Following are some vignettes that describe the early history of our Society.  



1. A year of formation - 1904

We have a journal from October 2, 1904, recording the history of the St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Patrick Church in South Bend. It injcludes copies of forms from 1904/05 used by the Society and its quarterly reports.  All entries in the journal were made in beautiful cursive writing by various men (women couldn’t join at that time).  There were few automobiles and home visits were made by foot, horse and/or buggy or street car.  All assistance requests were investigated, presented to the weekly conference meeting and voted on.  It seems that the St. Patrick conference area was on South Bend’s West side, north to the St. Joseph River and South to Lakeville.  Telephones were uncommon, and most local correspondence was made in person.

All Society members were called “brother”.  The shelter for the homeless was called the Poor House and there was the County Farm whose residents were called “inmates”.  When someone was very sick, they were often hospitalized for weeks.  Since there were no township trustees and food stamps at that time, the family was cared for by St. Vincent de Paul.  Babies died of small pox, adults died of consumption; also, morphine and cocaine were over the counter purchases at the local drug store.

As is common in some present conferences, attendance at meetings was a problem.  On October 4, 1904 there were 72 men attending the conference meeting.  About eight months later, eight to ten members were in attendance at the weekly meetings.  Money was a constant problem.  Meeting donations and the parish poor box were insufficient.  Revenue was sought from private donors, entertainment (festivals etc.) and from other parish groups such as women’s groups.

Despite very limited resources, the Conference accomplished many things.  Prayers, home visits, agency visits, getting groceries on discount, getting coal and wood donated or discounted; as well as, receiving clothes and furnishings for the parish “clothes room” kept the Conference busy.  Members also wrote newspaper articles about the Society.  All these actions show how these Vincentians followed the Rule of the Society.



2. ​​Focus from 1904 to Present

The Early Years
The early years were about formation.  The international St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in 1833.  The basic tenet was to serve God by serving those in need.  Om Sunday October 2, 1904, Fr. Younan organized the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at St. Patrick Church in South Bend, IN.  72 men were listed as being present.  The conference at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church had little guidance initially.  The men seemed to concentrate on direct service to the poor by trial and error.  On October 11, the new conference divided the city into districts to better care for and carries on the work of the Society.  They were to meet every Sunday.

The following are notes showing the focus of the new conference.

November 6:  A family needs shoes.  SVdP to investigate. One pair of shoes provided on November 13 at a cost of $1.50 ($40).  A lady on W. Colfax is in poor health, and her physical condition will not allow her to remain in the world much longer.  A home visit was directed.
November 20:  Brother Sullivan (note-Brother) found a local grocer (Mr. Groley’s Grocery) to give SVdP a 10% discount.


January 1:  A family needed medicine.  It cost $1 ($27) and was delivered.
January 8:  The Poor House Committee reported on a few changes being made which will benefit the “inmates”.
January 15:  A lengthy report on the condition at the County Farm was presented and it recommended clothing be furnished to the inmates.
January 16:  The South Bend newspaper reported on SVdP’s visits to the Poor Farm, "New Charitable Society Deplores Present Conditions”.
January 22: An “old gentleman” needs medicine at the County Farm, and it was provided.
February 5: One third ton of coal was provided to a family in need.
March 12:  A Lakeville family has children not attending school even though the father wants them to receive instruction for First Communion.  An investigation was ordered.  A home is needed for a child, and it was asked if any member present wanted to adopt.
March 20:  The Lakeville children will attend school in the fall.
April 10:  Accommodations are needed for a mother whose two sons refuse to support her.  One refuses to work, and the other refuses to help.
May 7:  A mother with an invalid son bedridden for three years, needed assistance.  Aid was provided and weekly visits were made with no improvement shown.
June 5:  The husband of a family is very sick and will be hospitalized for six weeks.  SVdP will give provisions to the family during this time.
June 26:  A visit was made to a family quarantined for smallpox.  Aid was given and a Mass was to be said for the family.  A family was visited that is unable to make a success at farming.  It was suggested that the family move in town and find work.
July 7:  The quarantined family lost a baby.  The funeral was paid for by the Society.  A woman without resources and with ongoing problems was placed at the County Farm.  A wheelchair was provided for a handicapped man.
September 3:  A visit was made to a family with the wife dying of consumption.  Food and medicine was given to them.
**** Note:  At this time automobiles were uncommon.  A 1904 Studebaker cost $1,600 ($42,567).  Visitations were usually made by foot, horse and buggy or by street trolley.  All assistance was investigated, presented to the weekly conference meeting and voted on.  It appears that the St. Patrick Conference zone was on South Bend’s West side, north to the St. Joseph River and South to Lakeville.


By 1950, the ledgers indicate more emphasis on the collection, storage, and dispersal of donated items.  The records show little about direct client aid and nothing about family development.  Most meetings seem to concentrate on the retail aspect of the Society.
Each parish conference had its own food pantry and wardrobe where clothing and household goods were kept.  Around that time, society members started looking for an abandoned store building to act as a centralized storage area and distribution point.
They found an empty store building on W. Washington St.  They bought it with a loan from the Bishop and it became the Thrift Store.  They purchased a used truck to pick up donations from homes and businesses.  Donations began to arrive at the new Thrift Store, a place where people could either purchase gently used clothing and household items, or they could obtain items free with a referral slip they received from a conference member.  All proceeds from Thrift Store sales were used to promote the mission of the Society, such as purchasing food for the needy or for the Christmas program.  The space on W. Washington St. filled quickly.  Operations were expanded into a vacant store next door.  Eventually, that building became too cramped and was suffering from structural problems.

In June 1960, the Thrift Store moved to a new 21,000 square foot building on Sample St.  This was made possible with a loan from Bishop Pursley.  This store was soon inadequate because of the lack of parking, limited retail and storage space and limited area for the assistance office.
More growth came in the 1980s and 1990s.  The number of conferences grew to 18, operating in parishes throughout St. Joseph County and one in Elkhart County.

In 1999, the Society moved its thrift store and administrative offices to a former Target Store on Ardmore Trail and the first Executive Director was hired.  Other staff members included a Thrift Store Manager and a Director of Emergency Aid, a program providing financial assistance to those in need.  Conference members continued to refer clients to the store for free clothing, furniture and household items.  The revenues from the sale of donated items helped support the Society’s programs and operational expenses.  A food pantry was opened to serve those clients who are not able to be served by the conferences.  The pantry also helped supply food to conferences for their home visits.

In 2009 a second thrift store was opened in the Greenwood Plaza at Ironwood and South Bend Ave.  The City of South Bend offered to buy the Ardmore store.  A search began for a new facility to house the Society operations.  In 2011 the Society moved into the Crescent Street building.  After the Ardmore store was sold, a new Thrift Store was opened on Bendix Dr. where the Thrift operations are maintained.  Another Thrift Store was opened on Western Avenue, completing the “three store plan” approved by the Board of Directors in 2011.

In 2016, the financial situation for the Society indicates a reevaluation needs to be made on the focus of the Society’s mission in St. Joseph County.  The three Thrift Stores have placed a serious financial strain on resources and the store on Western Avenue was closed.  Direct client aid for clothing, furniture, etc. is still necessary and food assistance is still a priority in this community.  The District Council building on Crescent is vital for the food pantry located there and food storage for the individual conferences to use.

Article 1.10 of the Rule is about the Promotion of Self Sufficiency.  Vincentians endeavor to help the poor to help themselves whenever possible and to develop empowerment which allows the poor to gain the confidence and the skills to be able to forge and change the destiny of their local community.  The Society is shifting to Family Development along with direct assistance.  Personal growth class offerings are increasing. 



3. ​​Walson Family - 1907

This is the story of the Walson family that moved to South Bend in 1907 because the wife had serious health issues.  The St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Patrick Church responded to this family’s needs in a way we should remember to this day.  This is an extract from the conference’s records.

December 22nd: Bro. Furey and Guilfoile reported that the Joseph Walson family came to South Bend about two months ago from Milwaukee, WI hoping to benefit Mrs. Walson’s health.  She is an invalid.  Mr. Walson had not been able to secure employment since he arrived here, except for one job of unloading a rail car load of coal.  They have one child (Anna), a girl eleven years old who they wish to send to school, but they have no money to buy her books.  Bro. Furey supplied them with groceries ($2.02 or $52.77 today) and one half ton of soft coal ($2.25 or $58.78 today) and a pair of shoes from our Clothes Room Keepers.  Bro. Guilfoile reported that he had already secured a job for Mr. Walson at the Indiana and Michigan Electric Company.
December 29th: Bro. Furey reported that he had visited the Walson family and furnished them with groceries ($1.47 or $38.40 today).  Mr. Walson went to work on December 26th.  Bro. Furey and Guilfoile were making arrangements to send the little girl to school.

​December 31st: Bro. Furey visited the Walson family on Dec 31st and supplied them with groceries ($2.11 or $55.12 today) and a pair of shoes ($1.50 or $39.19 today) for Anna to wear to school.
January 7th: The family was given groceries again ($1.42 or $38 today) and 1/2 ton of coal ($2.25 or $58.78 today).  Bro. Furey and Guilfoile had made arrangements to send Anna to school and instructed Sister M Sophia to procure for her the books she needed ($3.28 or $85.69 today).
January 20th: Bro. Furey visited the Walson family with groceries ($1.97 or $51.46 today).
January 27th: Bro. Furey visited the Walson family and found that they were getting along very nicely.  They thought they would be able to provide for themselves and did not ask for any aid.  They were very grateful for what SVdP have done for them.  He noted Mrs. Walson was still in very poor health.
It’s not known how the Walson family progressed after this last mention of them found in the conference records.  It’s noteworthy how the conference members followed through with this case, providing food, coal, shoes, school books and an education opportunity for Anna and a job for Mr. Walson, a job well done by our Vincentians 110 years ago. 



4. Christmas - 1907

At the St. Patrick SVDP Conference Meeting on December 22, 1907, the secretary reported that he had made arrangements for a horse drawn carry-all at the livery barn which would carry 18 people for Sunday December 29 to convey our members to the county infirmary.  It was decided that we should leave at 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday December 29th, members of SVdP conference visited the infirmary. Holiday cheer was dispensed to the inmates of the county infirmary by Rev. John DeGroote – and about 25 members of the St. Vincent de Paul conference who proceeded to the institution in a body.  The organist of the church and seven members of the choir were in the party.  Brief addresses were made by Father DeGroote and the president of the conference, JA Kaufer. Selections were rendered by the choir.  In addition to the words and songs of comfort and cheer Christmas were bestowed.  The event was thoroughly appreciated by the inmates of the infirmary.
Librarian Reilly reported that between July 1st & December 30th, 12 visits were made to the county infirmary distributing eighty magazines, papers and pamphlets.  Br. Weber had supplied twelve boxes of Christmas candy which were distributed to the poor children.
One of the inmates of the county infirmary expressed a desire to Fr. DeGroote to receive instructions in the faith and become a Catholic.
It is obvious how much the St. Vincent de Paul conference was involved in Christmas for the community in 1907.  Our traditions in giving joy and cheer to the needy are firmly rooted in St. Joseph County, Indiana.


5. ​​Those Hungarians - 1908

At the start of the 20th century, many immigrants were moving into St. Joseph County from non-English speaking countries.  My maternal grandfather, Wenzl Zeithammer, was Bohemian, and my maternal grandmother, Marie Kottekova, was Moravian.  They arrived in South Bend in 1902.  They, as many coming from Eastern Europe, were often called “Those Hungarians”.  Language and culture were obstacles for these folks trying to blend in.  Many settled in areas together i.e. Belgians in SW Mishawaka, the Poles on the Westside of South Bend, and the Italians in North Mishawaka.  Even Catholic parishes were established for different ethnic groups.  Fred (Zeithammer) Hancock
This story is about the St. Vincent de Paul conference at St. Patrick Church trying to assist the Horvath family.  The Vincentians get frustrated in their efforts.
January 27th: Bro. McInerny reported that he found an old man, named Joseph Horvath, and his wife at 712 W. Ford Street.  They were in very needy circumstances.  He had given them aid in groceries ($1.93 or $52.93 today) and coal & wood ($3.25 or $88.07 today).  The Advisory Committee was instructed to investigate the case.
February 3rd: Bro. Mc Inerny reported that he made another visit to the Horvath family and found them out of coal and groceries.  He supplied them with coal ($2.25 or $60.97 today) and groceries ($1.89 or $51.22 today).  They have a daughter on W. Monroe St. who is too poor to help, and a son who is a worthless saloon loafer.  He stays at home with the old folks.
Bros. Furey and Reilly of the Investigation Committee reported that they visited the family with an interpreter, but found it a very difficult to get any information from them or to find anyone who knew anything about them.  Mr. Horvath was out of work. 
The Investigation Committee thought that the proper place for this elderly couple would be the County Infirmary, if they could induce them to go there.  They found in this case, as in all other Hungarian families SVDP cared for, there was a lack of appreciation of the spirit in which SVDP wished to help them.
February 23rd: Bro. Mc Inerny visited the Horvath family again.  He gave them aid with coal ($2.25 or $60.97 today).  He had been to see a parish priest who said he would visit them.  The priest said he would try to get work for the young man living with them.
April 5th: Bro. Mc Inerny visited the Horvath family and gave them groceries ($1.20 or $32.52 today).



6. ​The Breweries Charitable Assistance

At the beginning of the 20th century, St. Joseph County had three large breweries, The South Bend Brewing Association, Muessell Brewing Company and Kamms & Schillinger Brewing Company of Mishawaka.  These companies thrived until Prohibition.  The breweries often helped the community with charitable giving.  The Muessell family still has a foundation that gives back to the area.  Here are two examples of the breweries charity that are mentioned in St. Patrick St. Vincent de Paul conference records.
January 17: Bro. Voelkers stated that the breweries of this city had ordered six rail cars of soft coal to be given to the worthy poor.  He left order blanks with Fr. DeGroote (pastor of St. Patrick Church), Bro. Schubert and Bro. Furey.  All coal orders would be promptly delivered that were signed by them.
April 18: It came to our notice that there was balance of a debt incurred, by the Sisters of the Little Hand Maids, putting a heating plant in St. Anthony’s Convent.  (It does not mention how the Vincentians of St. Patrick’s were tasked with this issue.)  A committee composed of Bros. O’Brien, Voelkers and Guilfoile was appointed to attend to this matter and clear this debt for the Little Hand Maids.
October 18: Bro. Voelker state the debt was contracted last spring for improvements in St. Anthony’s Convent amounting to $450 ($12,194.96 today).  This debt had been settled by the three brewing companies of this city and Mishawaka.  Also, they had paid for ten tons of hard coal for them (about $80 or $2,168 today). 
November 14: The committee formed January 17th 1909 received a check for $450. The donation was made by the three breweries noted above.  The committee was instructed to turn the amount over to the Sisters and the Secretary was instructed to thank the companies on behalf of our Society.

7. ​​Get Out of Jail Free - 1909

On July 25th, Bros. Weber and Schubert reported visiting the Kowicki family and giving food assistance.  They also provided food on August 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th and on September 5th.  Also on Sep 5th, Bro. Volker gave the family a load of wood.  On Sep 12th, Bros. Weber and Schubert gave the family food and paid two month’s rent for them. They again provided food assistance on Sep 19th.  On Sep 26th Bros. Weber and Schubert visited the family and found them well.  They determined that the only way to solve this case was to make an effort to get the father out of prison.  A committee was formed to look into the matter.
On October 3rd, Bros. Weber and Schubert gave the Kowicki family food assistance and a “wash boiler”.  They supplied Mrs. Kowicki with food and wood over the next two weeks.  On October 24th, Bros. Weber and Schubert found Mrs. Kowicki was sick and that the county physician was attending her.  They supplied the family with food on October 24th and November 7th.  On November 14th Bros. Weber and Schubert visited the family, found them doing well and they rendered food assistance.  Bros. Weber and Schubert supplied the Kowicki family with food and half a ton of soft coal on November 28th.
On December 19th Bros. Weber and Schubert visited the Kowicki family and gave them food and a pair of shoes.  On December 26th Bro. Weber reported that he had visited the Kowicki family and left them a Christmas package along with two bushels of potatoes and a 1/2 ton of coal. 
January 9th, Bros. Weber and O’Brien gave the Kowicki family food assistance.  They learned that Mr. Kowicki had been paroled from the Michigan City Prison, and might be home that day.  They had found a job for him in a local factory. On January 16th, Bro. Weber again gave the Kowicki family food assistance.  On January 23rd, Bro. Weber reported visiting the Kowicki family and gaving them food aid.  An order drawn to pay rent from September 8, 1909 to February 8, 1910.
On  May 29th, Bro. Weber reported that he visited the Kowicki family and found them getting along nicely.  They have moved to a better house.  Mr. Kowicki is working for the Street Commissioner and his supervisor says he is one of his best men.



8. ​Assault by Hatchet

January 30: Bros. Hoose and Reilly reported that they had investigated the family of Louis Turok, 1901 Linden Avenue.  They found a father and mother with seven children.  The oldest was a girl about fifteen years old.  The father’s health is such that he is unable to work, but he might be able to do some kind of light work if he could get such a job.  The Brothers thought the family worthy of our assistance and the township trustee promised to help the family as much as he can.  SVdP sent the family two bushels of potatoes and other vegetables.  Bros. Kelly and Ferges were assigned to look after the case.
April 3: Mr. Turok has found a job and has been working steadily.  He received his first pay packet.  They were all feeling well and were able to provide for themselves.
September 18: Mrs. Turok is recovering from a murderous attack made on her by her husband with a hatchet.  The family was given food aid.
October 9: Bro. Donahue visited the family and said they will need assistance for some time.
October 23: The township trustee is giving the family financial aid of $1.50 ($39.10 today) each week.  The family is to be referred to the Hungarian Societies that wish to take care of their own people.
October 30:  The township trustee, SVDP and the Hungarian Societies agreed to work together to help this family.
November 6: Bro. Donahue made three visits to the Turok’s during the week.  They are being evicted for not paying rent.  The Circle of Mercy supplied them with some clothing.  The trustee gave them some coal.  Food aid was given by SVDP.  Bro. O’Brien will see the owner of house about the rent.
November 13: The landlord agreed to wait on eviction.  Mrs. Turok has been attempting to get food and liquor in the jail to her husband.
December 4: Mr. Turok is now out of jail, and was at home.  He intends to go to work and to support his family.
January 1: Mr. Turok is still out of work.  He hopes to get work after the holidays.
January 7: Mr. Turok found a job as a cabinet maker.  Food and coal assistance was given.
January 15: Mr. Turok lost his job and food aid was given.
January 29: Mr. Turok has secured a job at Olivers.
February 12: Mr. Turok is working and has drawn one pay packet.  He paid part of his rent.  Their conditions appear to be improving.  Food assistance given.
February 19: The Turok’s were evicted.
March 19: The Turok’s moved.  Mr. Turok has been sick and is looking for a new job.  Bro. Kelly tried to induce him to go to church regularly.
April 2: Louis Turok is out of work again.  Mrs. Turok and the seven children are all sick.  Father Furlick will visit the family.  Note:  Typhoid Fever was making the rounds at this time.
May 21: Mr. Turok said the family was getting along nicely.  They would look after their spiritual needs later.
June 18: Mr. and Mrs. Turok had been to communion, but the children had not made theirs.
August 20: The Turok’s oldest made her first communion.
These entries seem like a case management study.  The Vincentians displayed patience, persistence and love with the Turok family.  They organized various agencies to assist the Turok’s.  The Vincentians provided food, coal, medical expenses, rent, job opportunities and also spiritual guidance.  As noted SVdP made at least 36 home visits in 20 months.  



9. ​​Little Girl with a Bad Leg - 1913

On March 2nd, Bro. George O’Brien reported that he had discovered the Mr. Ed Rogers family who have five children.  One child, a girl seven years old named Evelyn, has tuberculosis of the hip joint.  Dr. Oliny says that the child might be cured by an operation, which he would do free.  The child should go to the hospital and might have to stay there anywhere from 60 days to one year.  The family is in poor circumstances and cannot pay the hospital bill.  Bro. O’Brien considers it a very worthy case.  The case was placed in the care of Bro. O’Brien and Bros. Reilly and Butler with full powers to act.
On March 9th, Bro. Butler reported that he with Bro. O’Brien had tried to have an interview with Mr. Rogers, the father of the little girl.  Because of Mr. Rogers disposition they could not do so.  They found the case to be worthy as reported.  Dr. Oliny will take charge of the child and take her to the hospital, and we (SVdP) are to pay the expenses.
March 16th, Bro. O’Brien reported that the Rogers girl had been taken to St. Joseph Hospital and is being prepared for the operation, which will take place later.  Bro. O’Brien also stated that the County Commissioners had authorized the Township Trustee to take care of some cases at the hospital, and he hoped this case might come under this ruling.
March 23rd, Bro. O’Brien reported that Dr. Oliny had started the treatment of Miss Rogers at St. Joseph Hospital and that Sister H. did not want to accept pay from our Society, but it was agreed that we should pay four dollars a week for her care.  The Secretary was instructed to draw an order for $8.00 which would pay to March 26th.
March 30th Bro. O’Brien reported that he had not been out to the hospital this week to see Miss Rogers, but had seen her father who had promised to do something in the case.
On April 6th, Bro. O’Brien in reporting on the Rogers case and stated that the operation had been completed and was successful.  The abscess has been drained and the child has been pronounced cured and will be taken home sometime this week. 
April 13th Bro. O’Brien reported that Miss Rogers had been taken home from the hospital.  The operation has been very successful and an order for $8.00 ($193.53 in 2015 money) was drawn to pay the balance of the hospital bill. 
On May 4th, Bro. O’Brien stated that there were, without question, at least 150 cases of poor children in similar condition to the Rogers girl who were in need of surgical attention at a hospital.  The County Commissioners and Trustee would provide for the care, of some worthy cases. 



10. Professional Beggars

​March 5, 1911
Bro. Schubert reported that the Little Sisters had called his attention to a family they have been helping named Kusch (Knauch) on Division Street.  He visited the family and supplied them with 1/2 ton of coal costing $2.50 ($65 today).  The Investigation Committee was instructed to look into this case.
March 19: Food assistance totaling $1.87 ($49 today) was given.
March 26: A “how goes it” visit was given, but no assistance rendered.
April 9: Bro. Reilly stated that he had made further investigation of the Kusch (Knauch) family on Division Street.  He found the report is true that they have about $3,000 ($78,400 today) on hand.  Bro. Reilly’s opinion was that they are “Professional Beggars”.  He recommended that SVdP drop the case and render no further assistance.
Note:  It’s been asked by clients and Vincentians, why does SVDP question or investigate people asking for assistance?  Here are a few reasons:
1) We need to be good stewards; 2) Some people seek assistance from a multitude of sources; 3) Multiple names are sometimes used by those seeking assistance; 4 .Some things just do not make sense i.e. how many 87 year old couples have a 37 year old child living with them?



11. The Mad Dog Incident

​Minutes Begin 
January 7th, 1911
(Bro.) Dr. Berteling reported he had sent a poor boy, which had been bitten by a mad dog, to Indianapolis for treatment.  There were no city funds to meet such a case.  Our Society was asked to help meet this expenditure, which would amount to $75.00 ($1,960 today).
It was decided to advise Dr. Berteling that we were in sympathy with the work he had done in this case.  The Society would give him all the assistance necessary.  A committee to investigate this matter and report back at our next conference was appointed…
January 15th, 1911 
It was reported (by the committee) that the Dr. Berteling case, reported at the last meeting, had been taken care of.
End of Minutes

It is interesting to note that it was reported on January 7th that the Conference Treasurer had $101.69 available.  The medical bill for the mad dog bite was $75.  On January 15th, the Conference Treasurer had $95.68 on hand.  The minutes do not show how the $75 was procured.  Was it written off, or did a private donor come forward?


12. ​The Need for Childcare 1911 to Present

On February 5th, Bro. Guilfoyle called the attention of the Conference to the fact there are a great many mothers who would be able to go out and do work, but for the fact that they had small children who needed care.  One of the greatest needs of the city at present was a day nursery where children could be cared for while their mothers were at work.” Bro. Guilfoyle and Butler were appointed as a committee to investigate and take up the matter with the other charity forces in the city.
***Note: The case that follows gives a sad account of a struggling mother with three young children trying to survive.
January 1st, 1911
Bro. O’Brien visited the Cerpes family.  They needed coal and groceries, which were provided.  Bro. O’Brien was to look after them as long as they were in need.  He referred the family to the Township Trustee for a weekly allowance.
January 7th, 1911
Bro. O’Brien visited the Cerpes family and provided a pair of shoes for one of the children.  Mrs. Cerpes showed him the delayed Christmas basket that was sent to them.  The family also received a large bundle of needed clothing for the children.  Mrs. Cerpes can do washing, but cannot leave the house on account of the small children.
January 15th, 1911
Two visits were made providing food and underwear for the children.
February 26th, 1911
The Cerpes family moved and could not be located.
April 16th, 1911
Bro. O’Brien located the Cerpes family on Napier Street.  They were very much in need of groceries, which were provided.
July 2nd, 1911
The Cerpes family was in destitute circumstances.  Food aid was given.  Mrs. Cerpes just cannot find enough work/income to take care of her family.  She’s willing to send the children to an orphanage until she can support them.  The Circle of Mercy will get the children prepared and ready to go.
July 9th, 1911
Bro. O’Brien gave food assistance.  He was doing the necessary papers to send the children to the Orphans Asylum.
July 16th, 1911
Bro. O’Brien made arrangements with the Bishop to send the three Crepes children to the Orphans Asylum.  Bro. O’Brien was to arrange transportation.  The cost was $8.50 ($222 now).
Note:  The Conference made thirteen visits from January 1st, 1911 to July 16th, 1911 providing coal, food, clothes and transportation.
Bro. Guilfoyle and Butler’s efforts to start a day care nursery so mothers could work came to fruition in 1916.  The Circle of Mercy started the day care for struggling families.  It was terrible to have to send children to an orphanage because of the lack of day care. 



13. The Case of the Blind Boy - 1913

​On May 18th, Bros. Weber, O’Brien and Guifoyle were appointed as a committee to investigate the case of a blind boy, Manual Barry, who plays a hand organ on the street.
February 1, 1914, Fr. DeGroote suggested that the Society see what can be done to take the blind boy o

ff of the streets, and have him get some education.
April 12th Bro. Weber reported that he had called on Mr. A. Barry, the father of the blind boy.  Mr. Barry has been sick for eight months with leakage of the heart, and also has TB.  He has had to mortgage his furniture to live and has been unable to get work for himself or his boys who are able to work.  He has about given up hope.  He wants the Society to provide for his children.  There is a boy of 21 who works.  He has two boys, ages 8 and 18 and a girl, age 7.  Br. Murphy promised to find work for the boys at once.
April 19th Bros. Reilly and Butler reported that they had called on the Barry family.  The father is willing to work if he could get light work that he can do.  They were about to be put out of the house; so we guaranteed the payment of rent.  Bro. Murphy reported that he had secured work for the two oldest boys.  Bro. O’Brien stated that the Associated Charities had been interested in getting the blind boy into the school for the blind and teach him to be a piano tuner.
May 17th Bro. Weber visited the Barry family.  They needed $13.00 to pay for rent, or they would be evicted.  The rent was paid by the Society and Mr. Berry was told to find a house with less expensive rent.
On June 21st, Bro. Weber visited the Berry family.  Mr. Barry is feeling better.  Bro. Weber will try to get him some light work.
September 20th Bro. Weber reported on the Barry family.  He stated that it been the intention to send the blind boy away to school and at one time the stepmother had indicated that she was willing, but now refuses as the only income they have is what he gets playing the organ on the street.  The city authorities will not let him beg on the street any more.  The Board of Children’s Guardians can make him a ward and then do with him as they see fit, which very likely will be done.
September 27th the blind Barry boy is too old to be taken charge of by the Board of Children’s Guardians.  Another method will have to be used in this case.
October 11th Bro. Weber reported that the blind Barry boy had been arrested for begging on the street.  The older brother is a loafer and a rowdy.   
From October 11th, 1913 to May 30, 1915, the Society rendered assistance to the Barry family almost every month.  This assistance was coal, medicine, food and rent.  Also, the blind Barry boy was sent to the School for the Blind in Indianapolis during this time frame.  It appears that the blind boy, Manual Barry, has been emancipated from his family.
On June 20th, Bro. Weber reported that the blind boy had returned here for vacation from the School of the Blind in Indianapolis and he has been placed in the County Infirmary for the summer.  Bro. Weber met him and the train and took him out there.  He is in fair health and wants to go back to the school.  He is interested in music and hopes to learn to be a piano tuner.  He was taken care of by the Marion County Juvenile Detention Home until arrangements could be made for him here, which we had agreed to, amounting to $6.00.
This case shows the persistence the Society had in trying to assist Manual Barry, the blind boy organ grinder.  It took over two years of effort to get him off the streets and into a school.  Hopefully it all turned out for the best.



St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County

520 Crescent Avenue

South Bend, IN 46617


  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • instagram icon