The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is an international organization of Roman Catholic lay men and women of all ages, whose primary mission is to help the poor and less fortunate.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 by eight men who wanted to create an organization dedicated to helping those impoverished people living in Paris, France. The primary figure behind the Society's founding was Blessed Frederick Ozanam, a French lawyer, author, and professor in the Sorbonne.
The Society took Saint Vincent de Paul as its patron under the influence of Sister Rosalie Rendu, DC (Daughter of Charity). Sister Rosalie (who was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II) was a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a group of religious women who take vows to serve the poor and those in need, founded by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. Sr. Rosalie, who was well known for her work with the most poverty stricken people in the slums of Paris, guided Blessed Frédéric and his companions in their approach towards those in need.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is part of the Vincentian Family which also includes the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian priests and brothers, also founded by St. Vincent de Paul), Daughters of Charity, Ladies of Charity (organization of lay women who help the poor, founded by St. Vincent de Paul), Sisters of Charity in the Setonian tradition (founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton), Vincentian Service Corps, and several others, including some religious groups who are part of the Anglican Communion (Church of England, Episcopal Church USA, etc.).
The Society numbers about 190,000 in some 90 countries worldwide, whose members operate through so-called "conferences". A conference may be based out of a church, community center, school, hospital, etc., and is composed of Catholic volunteers who dedicate their time and resources to help those in need in their community. Non-Catholics may join with the understanding that the Society is a Catholic organization. St. John's University in New York embraces the Vincentian tradition and runs the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at its Queens campus.
Frédéric Ozanam left his home in Lyon, France, in the autumn of 1831, for Paris. He registered in the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris.
Frédéric collaborated with Mr. Emmanuel Bailly, editor of the Tribune Catholique, in reviving a student organization which had been suspended during the revolutionary activity of July 1830. They called their new association "The Conference of History." The group met on Saturdays to discuss various topics, everything but polititcs.
At one of their meetings, a student challenged Frédéric and the practicing Catholics. He admitted that the Catholic Church had done much good work in the past, but "what do you do now?"
Frédéric called for a meeting of five of his friends; they agreed to meet at Mr. Bailly's office. The date was April 23, 1833, Frédéric's twentieth birthday. Inspired by words, Frédéric the seventh decided to found the "Conference of Charity" to assist the poor. Emmanuel Bailly, the married layman, was chosen by the six students as their first President. In a short time, they changed their name to THE SOCIETY OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL after their patron.
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an International Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering tangible and spiritual support through prayer and person-to-person services to the needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.
As a reflection of the whole family of God, Members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background, age group, and economic level.
Vincentians are united in an International Society of Charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.
Organizaed locally, Vincentians witness God's love by embracing all works of charity and justice.
The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served, because in them Vincentians see the face of Christ.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul adheres to a group of core values; these are principles central to its creed and ministry:
- The dignity of the human person
- Identification of Jesus with the poor
- The preferential option of the poor
- Jesus is the Evangelizer and Servant of the poor
- Growth in intimacy with Jesus is a life-long process
- Poverty of spirit is the primary beatitude
- The Society is concerned with charity and justice
- Prayer is essential: personal and communal
- The virtue of humility: personal and corporate
- The virtue of charity within and outside of the Society
- Divine Providence
- "No work of charity is foreign to the Society. It serves persons in need regardless of race, creed, color or religion."
In all parts of the world, Vincentians work in the same fashion, through small teams of 10 to 20 persons called Conferences, always directed by the laity but, whenever possible, accompanied by a priest or religious. It is in this way that the Conferences express, with regard to the Church, both their desired hierarchical independence and their deep filial attachment.
The Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul are linked together through a vast network that directs the Councils at the regional level (Diocesan and Local Councils), country level (National Councils) and at the global level (International General Council). The fundamental principle of the entire organization is subsidiarity: each hierarchical level has only the competencies that those on the lower level cannot assume. This greatly fosters a spirit of initiative at the levels closest to the needs, especially since the functioning is entirely democratic: Conference presidents are elected by their team members and the presidents in turn elect the members of the Council upon who they depend. In the same way, all Council members are elected by the representatives in the level directly below, all the way to the General Council.
In every diocese, the Conferences work in direct collaboration with the Church at the parish and various institutional levels. More especially throughout the world, close ties unite the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences with other Vincentian Family organizations, notably the Daughters of Charity, the Congregation of the Mission and the AIC, as well as the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul. Many activities are accomplished in this close collaboration, and in a harmony which is most often complementary.
Here are some of the locations of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul throughout the world
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- June 19-23 Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Salamanca, Spain
- Aug 31-Sept. 4, Sheraton 301 E. N. Water St. Chicago, $115 National Meeting
- Oct. 21-22 NE Regional 9AM-2PM Albany NY Marriott 800 443-8952 518 437-632
- Oct. 27 Thurs. Vincentian Family East 10AM to 3PM Plainsboro NJ
- Feb. 12-15, Sun-Wed. Social Ministry Gathering (NCCB), Washington,DC
- Apr. 13-16, Midyear meeting, St. Louis, MO
- Apr. 27-30 National Vincentian Family Gathering, Westin Hotel, Plainsboro, NJ
- June 16-18 Northeast Regional Meeting -Worcester Centrum Center
- Aug. 29- Sept. 2 National Convention, Indianapolis IN Hyatt downtown $119.00
- Apr. 26-29- National Vincentian Family Gathering, Los Angeles, CA
- June SSVP NE Regional, Boston MA
- September National Convention, Austin TX
- September National Convention , Louisville, KY
Presentationof the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul by Franck Provence