Society of St. Vincent de Paul Chicago 1857 to the present
Who would think that the discourse of a 20-year-old college student and his friends would be the spark that ignited the world in service to the poor? Yet God had a plan ...
In 1833, Frédéric Ozanam, a young Sorbonne student, often met regularly with his fellow Catholic students to discuss the issues of the day in Paris France. At one of their public meetings, a challenger admitted that 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 and his friends conceded. Yet, this question weighed heavily upon Frédéric.
Very shortly afterwards, Frédéric and six friends were inspired to create the Conference of Charity, with the purpose of serving the poor of Paris. These young founders decided that no act of charity would be foreign to their organization. For people in need, the Conference members provided food, clothing, shelter and financial and spiritual assistance as well as tutoring programs and libraries.
Under the guidance of Sr. Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity who was often seen caring for the poor in the streets of Paris, Frédéric impressed upon the Conference members the need and importance of offering the kindness, respect and compassion of God to the people they visited. In his view, this was as important as the food or clothing they brought with them.
Frédéric chose the 17th-century priest St. Vincent de Paul, known as the Apostle of Charity, as patron of the Conference. Subsequently, the Conference of Charity was renamed the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Frédéric's faith was very important to him and it guided him throughout his life. He was known to be a very humble and compassionate man. These traits enabled him to successfully assist many people in need and laid the foundation for the Society to spread throughout the world. As the Society grew, its members established volunteer groups in parishes. These groups became known as Conferences. The Society started in the United States in 1845 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1857, the first Conference in Chicago began in St. Patrick church.
Today we have over 2,000 members located in Cook and Lake counties and over 700,000 members serving in 144 countries around the globe.
Learn more and enjoy the video below on the history and current view of the world's largest lay Catholic charitable group, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.