Vincentians from around the world and throughout New Zealand will gather in Christchurch for a weekend of anniversary celebrations in October.

This year the Society of St Vincent de Paul in New Zealand celebrates 150 years since it was first established in this country. The first conference was formed in Christchurch in 1867 and the society has flourished in Catholic parishes throughout New Zealand since then. Today the society has around 6000 members in New Zealand, including associates and volunteers and has 135 conferences.

Anniversary celebrations are planned for the weekend of October 13-15 in Christchurch. On Sunday, October 15, an anniversary Mass will be celebrated by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Martin Krebs as well as Bishops Owen Dolan and Charles Drennan.

Celebrations will also be attended by representatives of countries with which New Zealand has “twinning programme” arrangements — Tokelau, Tonga, Sri Lanka and Samoa. Other international guests will include the Council General and International Representative, Tony Muir, and International Territorial vice president Frank Brassil.

“The weekend will be a wonderful opportunity to give thanks to God for all the blessings the society has enjoyed over 150 years,” said Terry Comber, national president of the society. “We remember especially our brother and sister Vincentians on whose shoulders we are standing, those caring people who have gone before us over many decades, carrying out their Vincentian vocation often under very trying conditions.”

In addition to the Christchurch celebrations, local conferences of the society are also hosting local events and celebrations.

The society has published a special anniversary publication to mark this significant moment in its history.

The publication includes a visual timeline of the major milestones in its 150-year history, as well as reports about what local conferences have been doing around the country.

In his message to members, Cardinal John Dew said: “The Church in New Zealand and New Zealand society owes an incredible debt of gratitude to  the members of the St Vincent de Paul Society who have worked quietly and humbly to care for others in the name of Jesus.”

“I offer deep thanks for the way you have been Christ’s presence to those who needed a sign of hope and a gift of love and generosity.”

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is the largest Catholic lay organisation in the world. It is estimated that the society’s 800,000 members work with around 30 million people in need worldwide.