The many good works and the selfless nature of St Vincent de Paul are at the heart of St Vincent’s Castleknock College. As a Vincentian School, an integral element of the college student development is the work done in the community.
The Vincent de Paul Society was founded by Frederick Oznam, a young student at the Sorbonne University in Paris. He was a journalist and was renowned for his debating skills. He wrote a great deal about justice and the social teachings of the church. One day during a debate a lecturer observed that Oznam had lots of wonderful words about justice and faith, but seemed very short on actions. This comment stung Frederick, but challenged him to consider how he might put his faith into action. A Daughter of Charity, Sr. Rosalie Rendu DC brought Frederick and his friends into the slums of Paris (some of the worst in Europe at that time). He was shocked by what he witnessed and from that encounter he and his companions set about responding to the desperate needs of these people, especially those affected by a Cholera epidemic which had gripped the city and nation with fear. They formed the Society after St. Vincent de Paul (named after the saint as he wanted a patron whose own life reflected the sort of ideals and values he wanted the members to imitate).
Charitable and community work undertaken by the school community is organised through the two student conferences of the SVP; The Fr John Doyle Conference (TY) and the Fifth Year Conference which meet once a week during term.
Each year the SVP society organises a group of TY students who visit the resident women at St Louise’s (Daughters of Charity) Clonsilla. The boys help prepare a quarterly newsletter for the centre, bake cakes, play cards and socialise with the ladies, who get great joy from their visits.
Volunteering through the VLM
In 2009 the first group of students from St. Vincent’s travelled to the town of Ambo in Ethiopia to participate in the School’s Immersion program. They returned with a desire to support the education of Deaf children in the town. The idea was simply to raise enough funds to provide the children with house rent, uniforms, copybooks, pens etc. It was never envisaged that this little initiative would lead to the establishment of the first Catholic Deaf School in Ethiopia (The school is multi-denominational and respects the faith traditions of all its students). The establishment of the school mirrors a significant moment in the history of the College when 153 years previously Fr. Thomas McNamara left St. Vincent’s Castleknock and moved to St. Peter’s in Phibsborough from where he established the first Catholic Deaf School in Ireland (St. Mary’s Cabra). The Ambo Lazarist Deaf School opened in 2012 with 7 students. Since then it has rapidly expanded and today offers 70 Deaf children from rural villages surrounding Ambo access to education. Without the school, these children would live very isolated and lonely lives as they are often perceived as incapable of learning and excluded from their local schools.
The schools immersion program is run in conjunction with VLM who interview the boys, arrange the pre-planning, organise flights and insurance. Since 2008 over 100 students and staff have travelled to Ambo to help run the summer program. Over 200 local children throng to the Vincentian Compound eager to participate and try to improve their spoken English and learn some maths.
During the summer program the Students: teach maths and sports at the Deaf school (after they have received some lessons in Ethiopian Sign Language), teach at the KG school which has 250 children, compete in the annual Ambo/Knock football tournament, visit the social housing project, including the Leprosy project which were all built by the Vincentians. Some have even attended weddings and funerals, which is a unique cultural experience.
Their presence in the village brings a great joy and excitement to the local children all of whom receive copybooks and pencils brought by the boys in their suitcases. Some of the children hide these away until they return to school in Sept. Unfortunately, the immersion program has been interrupted due to some political instability and of course the Covid crisis. However, as our sister school, St. Vincent’s is committed to supporting this wonderful project and helping to ensure many more rural deaf children gain access to education.
You can visit our Summer Immersion Programme page for more information.
SVCC SEASON OF GIVING
Every year we start preparations for our SVCC Season of Giving in October. It is a time for us all to reflect and look beyond ourselves towards others. As a College we try to do our best to remember others by planning events and fundraisers for our Vincentian Charities.
Preparations began for our Season of Giving began in October where we looked at how best we could help those in need at Christmas. This led to the following;
The Sleep In 8th of December
The Sleep In is organised by the Ember Team annually. It is a night where all 1st Years stay over in the College. The aim of this night is to raise awareness of two of our Vincentian Charities- the VLM and De Paul Trust. We also aim to raise as much as we can to help those most vulnerable through both charities.
Each 1st Year is given a sponsorship card to raise money for the VLM and De Paul for the homeless. They are given a talk about both Vincentian Charities and what great work they do.
It is a great bonding night for all of the First Years. Not a wink of sleep was had!
First Year students support the Headmaster as he hands over a cheque for €10,000 to Ms Dymphna Cullen, VLM Board member. This is part of the proceeds from the recent sleep-in organised by the Fifth Year Ember Team. € 5,351.03 was raised the night of the Sleep In also for De Paul for the homeless.
December 9th 2024 Our Annual Christmas Tree Sale in aid of SVP
Every year we have an Annual Christmas Tree Sale here in the College in aid of SVP Dublin 15. It is a wonderful day where our Transition Year Fr John Doyle SVP Conference sell trees to the local community, parents and families of Castleknock College. This event has raised over €65,000 for SVP Dublin 15 in recent years.
December 11th 2024 Our Food Appeal for SVP
We started our food appeal for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul on Monday 11th of December. This is run by the Fr John Doyle SVP Conference here in the College every year.
Boys arrived in every morning with bags full of non-perishable goods, tinned food, sweets, hampers, and minerals. Parents left more food in to reception throughout the week. We watched the food mountain grow day by day. The generosity of the College community was incredible and it resulted in multiple deliveries to the SVP headquarters in Seán Mac Dermot Street.
December 17th 2024 delivery of CARE PACKAGES
St. Francis 1 and St. Justin’s 1 (Mr. Barnes and Ms. Fitzpatricks SPHE class) all helped to deliver 24 care packs to Drumbear Lodge Nursing home in Co. Monaghan.
Ms O’ Byrne’s SPHE classes also participated but had gifts delivered to a different nursing home. Thady Lee 1 carepacks went to Craddock House Nursing home in Naas and St. Louise 1 carepacks were delivered to Careline in Malahide.
The Annual VLM Raffle December 20th 2024.
The Annual VLM Raffle takes place online. Tickets can be purchased through the College website from November every year. It is one of the ways we can help some of the most marginalised in society.
The Vincentian Lay Missionaries (VLM) are committed to working with some of the poorest people in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. The VLM do this by sending volunteers and fundraising for projects run by our partners the Vincentian Fathers and Daughters of Charity. In 2023 the VLM have sent over €140,000 to various projects including the sponsorship of school places, paying teachers salaries, the purchase of school bus for a rural school in Tanzania and the building of a centre for a women’s development project.
Through our schools’ Immersion Programme, over 120 students and staff from St. Vincent’s Castleknock College have volunteered with VLM in our partner projects in Ethiopia & Kenya.
The VLM Raffle raised €6,799 this year. Thank you to our sponsors and all who purchased tickets. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Christmas Carol Service December 2024
A snap fund-raising effort was launched on Thursday 10th March 2022 when Fr Stephen was urgently contacted by a Vincentian priest in Slovakia asking for help loading a lorry bound for Odesa. Students took the lead and raised over €2,500 on the following day through a collection in class. Parents and pastmen have continued giving with the total now surpassing €18,000.
The Superior-General of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) has heard about this gesture of generosity. He has written a letter to Fr Stephen which can be downloaded here.