St Vincent de Paul: where hope has a face

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Ian and a friend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Ian and a friend. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Even when he doesn’t, Tony has all the time in the world

The one thing Ian wants most from his mate Tony Cranney is the one thing he doesn’t have … time.

But that doesn’t stop Tony from turning up when he’s needed with a smile on his face and a willingness to help.

Whether it’s a phone chat in the middle of the night because he can’t sleep due to years of addiction, he’s run out of basic necessities and needs them collected from the supermarket or just simply needs a shoulder to cry on, Ian knows he can always rely on his mate.

One of Sydney’s lost generation, Ian has fallen through the cracks of many welfare services and forgotten by just about everyone … except Tony and the Vinnies volunteers.

A gentle soul who’s had more than his fair share of hard knocks, Ian has been addicted to alcohol and drugs from an early age and spent more than two thirds of his life in and out of mental health facilities.

“Working long hours as a plumber as well as having a large extended family of his own, it’s Tony’s tireless giving of himself for others that has earned him the title “saint” in his Shire community.”

As generous as the day is long, Tony said Ian has a heart of gold who would “ask you for your last cigarette but give you his as well if you needed it,” he smiled.

The two have been “mates” for about 15 years and Tony makes some form of contact with him either over the phone or in person most days despite how many others there are needing his help.

Working long hours as a plumber as well as having a large extended family of his own, it’s Tony’s tireless giving of himself for others that has earned him the title “saint” in his Shire community.

Ian is just one of the many clients he has gained over more than 30 years of volunteering and Tony just one of thousands of people who every day share their time, care for humanity and energy to make a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged around Australia.

Arriving at his government unit in Sutherland with The Catholic Weekly in tow, the love felt between the two gentlemen is palpable.

Some of his few treasured possessions include a crucifix and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Some of his few treasured possessions include a crucifix and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

The fruit of friendship

Ian describes Tony as the “Holy Father” and he as the “Prodigal Son” and without him probably wouldn’t be here today.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, he says he is the face of Jesus and can’t describe the effect he has had on his life.

“He really is a saint, whenever I need him he just appears, he is the most generous person I know, an absolute Godsend,” Ian weeps.

“I haven’t got much but what I do have is mostly because of him.

“You don’t come across people like him very often so despite everything I’m a pretty bloody lucky bloke.

“He has done so much for me and one day I’ll work out how to repay him.”

On hearing that, Tony chuckles to himself. He knows he’ll never see the money he gives him from his own wallet, but that’s okay he says, if it brings a little bit of joy to his life then it’s worth it.

Tony Craney, volunteer at St Vincent de Paul Society, with his good mate Ian who he has known for 15 years. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Tony Cranney, volunteer at St Vincent de Paul Society, with his good mate Ian who he has known for 15 years. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Hope can the best help

For Tony, it’s his caring for the forgotten that reminds him of what’s important and he knows if it wasn’t for him, many like Ian face a pretty uncertain future.

With the unwavering support from wife Maggie, Tony is always there when he’s needed around the clock if need be.

“In all honesty I do love and pray for him and for all those I help support,” Tony said.

“Ian’s had a pretty rough trot but at the end of the day all he really wants is what we all want which is respect, friendship, support and love.

“As a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society I have been visiting sick, poor, sad, lonely people, people with disabilities, those living with mental health issues and, yes, those isolated (for one reason or another) for more than half my life.

“I am continually humbled and amazed by my dedicated members, volunteers and staff who continue to give hope, when all seems lost, food to the hungry, love to those in need and I just encourage them to continue their love of Christ through their service to those who call upon us in their hour of need.”

“What I find most is the people we help need hope more than anything.

“For me if I can give someone that, it’s worth so much more than money.

“I do get emotional at times and that’s both due to the sheer sadness I see but also the sheer generosity people show when it’s needed.

“I am continually humbled and amazed by my dedicated members, volunteers and staff who continue to give hope, when all seems lost, food to the hungry, love to those in need and I just encourage them to continue their love of Christ through their service to those who call upon us in their hour of need.

“And if that means answering the phone in the middle of the night to someone looking for some compassion so be it.”

Related Articles