History

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of the oldest charitable organizations in the world. It began in Paris, France in 1833, when a young student at the Sorbonne, Frederic Ozanam, was challenged during a debate to demonstrate what he and his fellow Catholic students were personally doing to help the poor in Paris.

Frederic’s reaction was immediate. Within weeks Ozanam, along with six of his peers, sought the guidance of Monsieur Emmanuel Bailly, Founder and Director of Societe des Bonuses Etudes, “The Society of Good Studies” and publisher and editor of La Tribune Catholique and Sister Rosalie Rendu, Superior of a Convent of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; an organization founded two hundred years earlier to care for the sick and the poor.

On April 23, 1833, the first “Conference of Charity” was formed. Frederic and his fellow Conference members visited the poor in their homes, providing them with needed aid and assistance whenever possible; sharing whatever food and other necessities that were available for them to give. These young men financed their works of charity out of their own pockets and from contributions from friends. Shortly after the “Conference of Charity” began its work, Frederic noted, “The work of the Conference not only feeds the spirit of those we seek to serve, but ours as well.”

On February 24, 1835, the second “Conference of Charity” was formed and December 8th of that year it was placed under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul and a “network of charity” was born.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s work quickly spread throughout Europe and arrived in the United States in 1845, with the founding of what is now the Council of the United States in St. Louis, Missouri.

All members of the Society, Vincentians, continually strive to promote the dignity of the people they serve while helping alleviate their suffering and distress and work to help correct conditions that cause these problems. Advocacy work of the Society can be found at the Advocacy section of our website.

Vincentians carry on the work begun when the Blessed Frederic and his friends formed that first Conference in France 179 years ago.

If you would like more information about the work of the Society, please Contact Us and submit your questions so that we may contact you via the method of your choice.

“Christianity is not about ideas but about deeds inspired by love.”
-Frederic Ozanam

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