How the Society of St Vincent De Paul began

Twenty-year-old student Frederic Ozanam and a few friends (The Founders) started the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris on April 23, 1833. It was a time when the Catholic Church in France was the object of bitter hostility following the French Revolutions of 1789 and 1830.

It is a tribute to youth and a remarkable example which can be followed by young people today that, well aware of the very difficult political, social and economic problems of their times, those young men, students starting out on their future lives, all in their teens or early 20s, did not waste time or energy, but preferred to commit themselves to an active, moral and material service to the Church and to the most deprived. 

Favouring a practical, direct approach to dealing with poverty, by their own efforts and raising what finance they could, they worked to alleviate the sufferings and poverty of others less favoured in their social situation. Frederic Ozanam and his friends believed that Christian help and friendship were the best means of achieving social justice.

This is the same path followed today by the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as they work for social justice.

St. Vincent de Paul was chosen as patron for the new Society as the Founders had strong contacts with Sister Rosalie Rendu, a sister of the daughters of Charity, an order founded by St. Vincent de Paul's friend, Louise de Marillac.

Members continue to follow the vision of St. Vincent de Paul and their founder, Frederic Ozanam, seeking to achieve social justice in a caring nation.

1813 Frederic was born in Milan in April of that year.
1832 He went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne University.
1833

The first Conference of the Society was formed by Frederic and his companions, and placed under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul.  This was a time of great social unrest in France, following the French revolution. Ozanam and his friends participated in many debates at University and Frederic found himself defending Christianity from the attacks of other students. He was aware of the great poverty there was in Paris and Frederic realised the Church must back up its faith by concrete charitable actions.

 

He approached the Daughters of Charity who introduced him to poor families and he and his friends began to live the Gospel command 'show love to your neighbour' by visiting those living in dreadful poverty, and bringing what food and comfort they could.

1834 "The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love what justice alone cannot do".
1853 By the age of 26 Frederic had obtained a Doctorate in Law and Literature.
1853 Frederic died at the early age of 40 years.
1997 Pope John Paul II beatified Frederic Ozanam.