Within 30 years of the foundation of the Society in the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1833 a new Conference was formed in Perth at Saint John the Baptist Church, to serve the poor within the City of Perth. This Conference was founded on 6th January 1861 and became Aggregated within the Society on 25th March 1861. The Conference still flourishes today and plans to celebrate its 150 years in existence are well advanced.
The work of the Society quickly spread within the Diocese and the 19th April 1863 saw the founding of the next Conference at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, Dundee with Aggregation granted on 13th July 1863. Sadly this Conference ceased to exist early in the 21st century due to the age and illness of existing members and the failure to recruit new members. Four years went by before the next Conference was formed at Saint Mary Our Lady of Victories Church, Dundee on 15th July 1867. For some unknown reason Aggregation was not granted until 8th June 1874, almost seven years later.
Following a gap of over twenty years a new Conference was formed at the Immaculate Conception Church, Dundee on 18th January 1889 with Aggregation granted on 21st July 1890. Two years later the fourth Conference to be formed within the City of Dundee was founded on 4th July1891 at Saint Patrick’s Church with Aggregation granted on 21st September 1891. Sadly this Conference too has folded in recent years through lack of members.
The first Conference to be formed outwith Perth and Dundee Cities was at Saint Mungo’s Church, Alloa. This was founded on 1st January 1896 with Aggregation granted on 30th November 1896. There then followed a gap of over ten years before the next Conference was formed at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Broughty Ferry, on the 14th November 1909 with Aggregation granted on 28th February 1910. During the years 1929 to 1933 three further Conferences were formed. The first of these was at Saint Peter and Paul’s Church, Dundee on 1st September 1929 with Aggregation granted on 13th January 1930. This was followed by the formation of a Conference at Saint Serf’s Church, High Valleyfield on 1st May 1932 with the granting of Aggregation on 28th November 1932. Saint Francis Church Conference, Dundee was formed on 10th September 1933 with Aggregation granted on 27th November 1933.
The only Conference to be formed during the 1940’s was at Saint John Mary Vianney Church, Alva on 1st January 1946 with Aggregation granted on 23rd September 1946. The start of the 1950’s saw the formation of a Conference at Holy Family Church, Dunblane on 2nd July 1950 with Aggregation granted on 2nd April 1951.
The post war years saw a rapid increase in the number of Conferences formed throughout the Diocese. With the splitting of many of the older parishes and the building of Catholic Churches within the Housing Estates created by the building of Social housing the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s a total of fifteen new Conferences were formed between 1951 and 1987. These additional Conferences were formed in Blairgowrie, Dundee, Tullibody, Perth, Montrose and Arbroath.
The start of the 21st century saw the formation of the first Youth Conference at Dundee University. This Conference was formed in 2004 and was granted Aggregation in December 2006. The members of this Conference are available mainly during term time but those who reside locally continue their involvement within the Conference throughout the year. As Dundee University stands adjacent to Saint Andrew’s Cathedral the University Conference members respond to the needs of the poor within that parish following the closure of the Cathedral Conference. Members also help to run a soup kitchen for homeless people two evenings per week and visit residents in nursing/rest homes in their area.
Many of the Conferences throughout the Diocese are flourishing at the start of the 21st century. Two of the oldest have closed in recent years and a couple of others have closed or amalgamated with adjoining Conferences due to changes within parish boundaries. Sadly many are also struggling to stay active and depend very much on elderly members to remain functional. Recruiting new members is something many of our Conferences find virtually impossible and it is questionable how long some Conferences can survive before they are forced to close. We can only place our trust in God and pray individually and collectively that the “God of the Harvest” will imbue many more people with the Spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam to step forward and join in His work for His people within the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Over the years members of the Society within the Dunkeld Diocese have continued their charitable and spiritual work through the visitation of the sick in their homes and during visits to hospitals and nursing homes. In addition visits to the housebound have helped to maintain contact with parishioners who live alone or are unable to attend Church Services or parish social events. Many of our Conferences organise parties, day outings, lunch clubs and other social events for our elderly parishioners.
The Furniture Projects run by the Dundee, Perth and Clackmannan Group Councils have over the years been in constant demand and a great source of help for clients being re-housed or those in need of replacement items. Keeping these Projects going has not been easy due in part to the increasing age of the members involved, the limited number of fit members available to do this work and the problems of storage and transportation.
The Perth Group Special Works Conference have taken a long lease on unused Church property from Bishop Logan and after renovation, following a large grant from the National Activity Fund, are now able to offer good quality accommodation to homeless people.
The Ozanam Club in Dundee continues to provide an opportunity for children and young adults with disabilities to meet weekly where games, social interaction and outings are encouraged under the supervision of volunteers.
The SSVP Shop in Dundee has been a great success since it opened and provides a wonderful source of income which is donated to local worthy causes and National and International Appeals in times of crisis. This shop is run by volunteers.
Caravan holidays are provided by the Dundee Group in two caravans sited at Arbroath. These provide holidays for young families and elderly members of all communities who might not otherwise be able to afford a holiday. The Nairn caravan has also been widely used for families who would benefit from such a holiday.