In 1833, a 20-year-old college student and his friends began serving the poor in Paris, France. This was the beginning of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Today, there are more than 777,000 members serving in 149 countries around the globe.
The Society arrived in the United States in 1845, where the first conference was formed in St. Louis, Missouri. The first presence of the Society in the Galveston-Houston area was in 1871 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston.
Today, there are 58 Conferences in the Galveston-Houston Council with more than 1,900 members growing spiritually through friendship and service to those in need.
The Society's Founder
Blessed Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853) founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He was a young Sorbonne student who met regularly with his fellow Catholic students to discuss the issues of their time. At one of their public meetings, a challenger admitted the Catholic Church, at one time, had been a great source of good, but asked, “What is your Church doing now?… Show us your works and we will believe you.”
Unable to respond, Frédéric conceded. Shortly afterward, Frédéric and six friends created the Conference of Charity, with the purpose of serving the poor of Paris.
Frédéric and his friends provided food, clothing, shelter, financial, and spiritual help. They also established tutoring programs and libraries. Source: svdpusa.org
The Society's Mentor
Blessed Rosalie Rendu, DC (1786 - 1856) was a Daughter of Charity who served for 54 years in the Mouffetard area, the most impoverished district of Paris.
Emmanuel Bailly, the President of the Society, sent the founding members of the Society to Sister Rosalie for guidance and direction. Sending them on home visits, she formed them in the spirit of St. Vincent, teaching them how to serve the poor with respect and compassion.
The Society's Patron Saint
St. Vincent de Paul
(1581-1660) was the founder of the Congregation of the Mission, Daughters of Charity, Confraternities of Charity, and Ladies of Charity.
He was a man of deep faith, keen intellect, and enormous creativity, he has become known as the "The Apostle of Charity" and "Father of the Poor." His contributions to the training of priests and organizing parish missions and other services for the poor shaped our Church's role in the modern world.