Serving the poor and homeless has always been important to St. Louisan Jim Kistner. So, when he began a search for a new home parish, one of the churches he visited for Mass was St. Catherine Labouré, a Vincentian-run parish in South St. Louis County. Jim recalls that “it just felt like home. It doesn’t often happen to me where God sort of hits me in the face with what he wants me to do — but with this, I just knew. This is where I belong.”

Jim grew up fifth of seven kids in North St. Louis. “I really don’t know how my parents did it — keeping food on the table, sending everybody to Catholic schools. They always taught us that we were given a lot and that we need to give back.”

Jim first learned of the Vincentian priests and brothers from the Daughters of Charity who taught him in grade school. He recalls lessons about the life of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac; the first one founded the Congregation of the Mission and the latter founded the Daughters of Charity.

“I’m inspired by Vincent’s life,” Jim says. “His being born in poverty … then seeking a more elite life via the seminary … only to be kidnapped … promising God if he was released he would devote his life to the poor. In keeping that promise, St. Vincent de Paul is an inspiration for all of us.”

Jim said he contributes to the Congregation of the Mission because he sees them carrying on that mission day in and day out. “I see the homeless being fed and the poor being educated. Whether it’s here in St. Louis or in Kenya, so many kids just need a fighting chance. They’re in an uphill battle. We need to do a better job of sharing what we have with ones who don’t. The Vincentians do that. They are feeding kids, building schools for children in various parts of the world.”

He added that the struggles aren’t always material or financial. “People go through losses of all kinds — divorce, losing a job, emotional strain, the death of someone close to them. I see the Vincentians serving their spiritual needs, as well. Like they do, I try to see the face of Christ in every person in need.”

This article is republished from the March 2022 edition of The Vincentian.