From the president of Oxford and Banbury District SVP
SIR Sarah Mellor's plea (Feature, January 12) for someone to take an interest in people who. like herself, suffer from loneliness and despair must strike at all our consciences. Do we feel Christ's message to love our neighbour as ourselves or St James's warning that faith without good works is dead do not apply to us?
Here is a young woman who. in spite of her blindness, has great faith. She must represent countless other people suffering from various disabilities, who, feeling abandoned, lose contact with the Church.
Sarah pleads for organisations such as St Vincent de Paul Society to be more aware of people like herself. However, she is preaching to the converted. Members of the SVP know better than most how important it is to visit isolated people to try and reduce their isolation. Sadly, the SVP has difficulty in persuading parishioners that there are still such people in need in our towns and cities and, yes, in our parishes.
In Sarah's town the SVP has just three members, in spite of appeals for more members. These three people do outstanding work, but know it is only scratching the surface. Nationally, appeals for more members often fall on deaf ears. People claim they are too busy or cannot commit themselves. Others refuse to believe there is any need in their parish. In England and Wales last year the SVP made over 600,000 recorded visits, yet we know just how much more could be done with more members and support.
The needs we encounter in most parishes include the housebound, elderly, bereaved. those living alone or-in residential homes. the sick and incapacitated. Perhaps Sarah's plea will stir a few consciences. As Lent approaches why not decide to do something positive? The SVP is one of many organisations that serve people in need, and all require some commitment.
It is interesting to note that Sarah herself has done lots of volunteering and found it very rewarding. It is interesting that it is often the people who have experienced problems or lead the busiest lives that make time to devote to others, knowing that serving others has its own reward. Sarah's story is a challenge to us all, Yours faithfully. NICK BROWN By e-mail