A Brief History of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in Paris, France in 1833 by a 20-year old student, Frederic Ozanam.  Challenged by the poverty he saw on the streets, and by his contemporaries who believed the Church no longer demonstrated an active faith in works of charity, Frederic organized the first “Conference of Charity” to help the poor of all religions created by the industrial revolution, as well as create an avenue that assisted people to express their faith and grow spiritually through acts of charity.  Students in the Conference began begging for money, food, fuel and other items that could be used to help the desperately poor families they found in the slums of Paris.  These students also met weekly to take stock of their resources and plan their activities.

This first Conference of Charity grew rapidly to more than 600 members and fifteen additional Conferences were formed in the cities and towns surrounding Paris.  By 1845 there were Conferences of Charity all over the European continent, as well as in Ireland, England, Greece, Mexico and the United States.

Today, it is an international organization of lay Catholic women and men with more than 1,000,000 members in 142 countries, and a mission to “seek and find the forgotten, thesuffering or the deprived.”  Members of the Society seek, in a spirit of justice and charity, to promote the dignity of the person and alleviate human suffering and distress, while correcting conditions that caused them. They are actively involved in providing person-to-person assistance to those in need, guided by the credo of:

“No Act of Charity is Foreign to the Society.”



Here’s a short video on the history of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: