Life Membership awarded to Ivor Davies

Ivor Davies, dedicated stalwart of the St Vincent de Paul Society, was awarded Life Membership of the Society by Peter Doris, Wollongong Central Council President, on 27 April 2024 at a Festival Mass celebrating St Michael’s Conference Nowra’s 90th anniversary.

The award on 27 April 2024 recognised over 60 years of Vincentian service, including Ivor’s leadership as Conference, Regional and Wollongong Central Council President.

It’s a far cry from 1962 in Cardiff, Wales, where shortly after being received into the Catholic Church, Ivor asked his parish priest what he could do in gratitude. Joining the St Vincent de Paul Society was the suggestion.

“St Vincent de what? Never heard of it!” 

“A few days later two local members came knocking on my door.”

“The rest is history,” Ivor said with a smile.

Brian Murnane, former CEO of Amelie and St Vincent de Paul Housing, spoke warmly of the award for his friend and successor as Wollongong Central Council President.

“Ivor epitomises a St Vincent de Paul member – his dedication to his family, his dedication to the Conference and his willingness to take on leadership roles within the Society. Ivor was always an inspiration to me.”

“I think this is a very important achievement, a well-deserved award for the great dedication Ivor has given to the Society in many years,” Brian said.

Ivor was in his element during the Festival Mass and lunch in late April and has a gift for storytelling, painting a picture of the Society in decades past.

After joining in Cardiff in 1962, one of his earliest assignments was to bring 5 shillings to a lady for an extra hundredweight, a 51kg sack, of coal for the fire.

“I felt a little like Ozanam taking his bundle of wood to a person in a Parisian Garret,” Ivor said.

When Ivor joined, the Society was a men’s organisation, and when his Conference visited people in hospital, it would visit with Catholic men only, while Catholic women’s organisations would visit the Catholic women.

“Believe it or not, apart from the equivalent of the Catholic Weekly, we took around ‘the blue bag’, which contained cigarettes, tobacco and sweets. Smoking in the wards was not unusual!”

Three years later, Ivor and Carole were married and moved to Australia.

St Michael’s Conference Nowra had been established in 1934, just 3 months before Ivor was born, covering an enormous region from Gerringong to Jervis Bay.

“So, some of the ‘visits’ could take quite a long time,” he said.

His first assignment in Nowra was a project to build the first two cottages in Nowra/Bomaderry designated for Aboriginal families, all done by voluntary labour. Many working b’s on weekends followed with St Michael’s Conference having responsibility for the internal painting.

The early centres obtained clothing through ‘clothing drives’ – knocking on doors and leaving plastic bags for collection the following weekend. A basement room in the local Catholic primary school was used as a ‘wardrobe’.

In 1971, Ivor became the 5th Conference President of St Michael’s Conference Nowra. 

“In those days meetings were held in the evenings as most of us were still working fulltime. I don’t remember a great deal of that period, probably because the position then was not terribly onerous.”

At that time, most families were assisted on recommendation by the parish priest, from families he had visited during the previous week.

“We had some really great Presidents after me, which included our first female President, Carmel Gleeson. After Carmel, 9 out of 12 Presidents have been women, a reflection of the membership,” he said.

Ivor was grateful to be commissioned as Wollongong Central Council President in 2005, at a Mass concelebrated by then Fr Pat Faherty and Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong. Bishop Peter died peacefully the evening before Ivor was awarded Life Membership at the Festival Mass, where all members gathered remembered and prayed for him as part of their intentions.

During Ivor’s leadership of the Wollongong Central Council, there was a steady programme of gatherings of people across all roles in the Society, rotating across the different regions, which he looks back on fondly.

“The Society is still a great organisation for meeting wonderful fellow members and also having their support in times of personal need.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society congratulates Derek “Ivor” Davies on his Life Membership of the Society and also wishes Ivor a Happy 90th Birthday!

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