The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a lay catholic organization whose mission is:
- To live the Gospel message
- by serving Christ in the poor
- with love, respect, justice and joy.
The Mission of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul implies that as Vincentians, we:
- see Christ in anyone who suffers;
- come together as a family;
- have personal contact with the poor;
- help in all possible ways.
Although the article “the” is used before the name in text, the official name is “Society of Saint Vincent de Paul”.
- The fish is the symbol of Christianity and, in this case, represents the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
- The eye of the fish is the vigilant eye of God seeking to help the poor in our midst.
- The crossing at the tail or the tie-knot represents unity and oneness among members and also the union with the poor.
- The circle bounding the logo signifies the global or worldwide stature of the SSVP, an international Society
- The phrase serviens in spe means to serve in hope, the hope that comes from Our Lord Jesus Christ
The fish logo has long been the icon that has allowed the public to identify the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul throughout local communities, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Origins of the Society
First Beginnings: Paris France
Blessed Frédéric Ozanam is recognized as the main founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.He gathered around him students of like mind and faith and they confronted faculty members of the Sorbonne University who attacked their faith.
One March night in 1833, a fellow student, a non-Catholic, challenged Frédéric and friends. His question was “What are you doing for them (the poor), you and your fellow Catholics…? Show us your works!” Ozanam knew that faith must be translated into action and that, like the apostles, they needed to evangelize by the practice of charity. He rallied the group when he cried out: “The blessing of the poor is that of God…let us go to the poor.”
One evening in May 1833, Frédéric and five other students met in the office of Mr. Bailly. The “Conference of Charity” was born. They asked Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul to teach them how to minister to the poor with love and respect, and she did so with much kindness. By 1834, there were more than 100 members and the Conference was renamed the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, taking the saint as an example to follow, and placed under the protection of the Blessed Virgin.
First Conferences in Canada
The conviction and enthusiasm of the founders of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul convinced many Catholic students to join the nascent Society. One of them was a young Canadian, Joseph Painchaud, Jr. (1819-1855). He joined the Saint Severin Conference while studying medicine in Paris. On returning home, Dr. Painchaud introduced the Society into Canada by establishing the Conférence Notre-Dame at Quebec’s Cathedral (now a Basilica) Parish on November 12, 1846. During its first year of existence, the Conference members distributed $5,000.00 to the poor, mostly to aid victims of two major fires that destroyed two thirds of the city in that year. The new Vincentians also opened a hospice for seniors, a Savings Bank (Caisse d’économie) for workmen and labourers and assisted German and Irish immigrants arriving in Quebec City. The Society expanded quickly and the first Particular Council was instituted on October 11, 1847 in the Quebec City area bringing together nine Conferences. The Superior Council, which is now called the National Council, was created in 1850.
Expansion into Ontario
Blessed Bishop Ignace Bourget, then Archbishop of Montreal, first established a Conference in Montreal in 1848 in Saint Jacques Parish. Dr. George Muir, who was an active member of the Quebec City Conference, moved to Toronto where he became the founder of the first Conference at St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish in 1850. The Society continued to expand in Ontario with the establishment of the Conference Notre-Dame de la Merci (bilingual) in Ottawa by Mr. Jimmy Joyce and his companions in December 1860. Three years later, the first francophone Conference was founded at the Notre-Dame du Bon Secours Parish (now Cathedral-Basilica) of Ottawa. The Society expanded to Hamilton, London, Windsor and other Ontario communities.
Born: Apr 24, 1581
Died: Sep 27, 1660
Canonised: Jun 16, 1737
Feast Day: Sep 27
Born: Aug 12, 1591
Died: Mar 15, 1660
Beatified: Mar 11, 1934
Feast Day: May 9
Born: Apr 23, 1813
Died: Sep 8, 1853
Beatified: Aug 22 1997
Feast Day: Sep 9
Born: Sep 9, 1786
Died: Feb 7, 1856
Beatified: Nov 9, 2003
Feast Day: Feb 7