The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
What is the Society of Vincent de Paul?
The Society of St Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic voluntary organization dedicated to the sanctification of its members through serving the poor and disadvantaged. Such service has been historically provided by the "home visit".
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 to serve impoverished people living in the slums of Paris, France. The primary figure behind the society's founding was Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, a French lawyer, author, and professor in the Sorbonne. He was 20 years old when the society was founded and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The Society took the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Vincent de Paul as its patrons under the influence of Sister Rosalie Rendu, D.C. Sister Rosalie (who was herself beatified in November 2003 by Pope John Paul II) was a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and was well known for her work with people in the slums of Paris. She guided Frédéric and his companions in their approach towards those in need.
The society gradually expanded outside Paris in the mid 19th century and received benefactors in places such as Tours where figures such as the Venerable Leo Dupont, known as the Holy Man of Tours, became contributors. Its earliest presence in the United States consisted of a chapter founded in 1854 at St. Patrick's Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
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, and several others, including some religious groups who are part of the Anglican Communion, like Company of Mission Priests.
The Society numbers about 700,000 members in some 148 countries worldwide, whose members operate through "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. Following the changes in the new Code of Canon Law of 1983, the Society is one of many private lay associations under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The Society’s first Conference in the United States was established in 1845 in St. Louis, Mo. Membership in the United States totals more than 172,000 in 4,600 communities. The national headquarters is in St. Louis. Programs include home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine. The Society in the United States provides more than $675 million in tangible and in-kind services, serves more than 14 million people in need each year, performs more than 648,000 visits to people in their homes, and delivers more than 7 million service hours to those in need.
Youth SVP (England and Wales) was founded by the Society together with former teacher Paul Lever in 1999. Young people from Catholic schools and parishes from across England and Wales are involved in a range of volunteering projects in their local communities.
One of the great successes of Youth SVP in the first decade after it was founded was its annual Camp Vincent at Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. This involved young volunteers from across England and Wales coming together for four days, with icebreakers, morning and evening spiritual reflections, music, group-based morning workshops, sporting and creative activities, an "It's a knockout"-style competition, evening entertainment including a karaoke/disco and a final-day Youth SVP Mass. The Mass involved a large amount of congregational participation, with the young volunteers in their camp groups taking significant sections of the Mass and delivering an interpretation through song, role-play, arts and crafts, dance or a symbol to name a few.
Further to the success of Youth SVP, a new project, SVP 1833, was started with the aim of involving younger adults, with a target age group of 18-30+. The name 1833 stems from the year the Society was founded by Frédéric Ozanam. SVP 1833 groups were established in university Catholic chaplaincies, as well as in a range of other meeting places in cities across England and Wales.
Following the departure of National Youth Development Officer Paul Lever in 2009, the last successful Camp Vincent in 2010 and a decline in participation in 2011, Youth SVP was relaunched in August 2012 in London with a new image and a new focus.
In Australia, the society has engaged over 40,000 members and has many more volunteers. 'Vinnies Youth', the youth membership of the Society in Australia, engage young people from the age of 10 to 30 in the society's many works throughout the country.
CEO Winter Sleepout
The aim of the CEO Sleepout is to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless. Starting out as a local community venture in Sydney’s Parramatta in 2006, the CEO Sleepout launched nationwide in 2011, exceeding expectations with almost 700 CEO’s participating.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul came to Mumbai in 1862, when the Conference of Our Lady of Hope, Bhuleshwar, was established by Fr. Leo Meurin, S.J. (later Bishop Meurin of Bombay) in the Cathedral there. With the closure of the Cathedral in 1942, the Conference was transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Health, Cavel. The second Conference, the Conference of St. Teresa, Girgaum was established in 1862 in Mumbai by Fr. Meurin. Early in 1863 he established four more conferences in Mumbai, namely, the Conferences of St. Peter, Bandra, St. Joseph, Umerkhadi, Our Lady of Victories, Mahim and St. Anne, Mazagaon.
St Vincent De Paul Society is very active in the southern part of India especially in Kerala. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is playing an important role in St Vincent De Paul Society works.
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