The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an International Catholic lay organization which leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering tangible and spiritual support through prayer and person-to-person services to the needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.
Organized locally, SSVDP members witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice. They are united by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.
The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served, because in the poor, they see the face of Christ.
In 1833 in Paris, Frédéric Ozanam, along with other University friends, founded the Society. Its purpose was “following the Vincentian tradition, to help our neighbor, those who suffer and the abandoned, just as Jesus Christ would do.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is active in 147 countries where over 55,000 conferences, with 750,000 members and 1.3 million volunteers, provide services to those who are poor and in need.
Representing the conferences at international level is the Council General of the Conferences of Saint Vincent. Based in Paris, the primary function of the Council General is to support the Conferences around the world, providing financial and humanitarian resources for the work being carried out. It acts as a link between the poorest and the richest countries where the Society is represented, to support technology transfer, economic and financial help, and ensures that funds are used in accordance with the authorised programmes to help the poor.
All of the Society’s central administration members are volunteers, and only a small group (of ten people) is employed in the Paris office to provide continuity of service.
New President General Michael Thio began his term as President General of the Society on 27 September 2010 – the Feast Day of St. Vincent de Paul. He will lead the society globally for the next six years.
In his inaugural message, Thio said, “The Society today is one of the most respected, well-known, flourishing and inspiring apostolate of Charity worldwide. Millions of poor and needy around the world, whom we call our ‘friends in need’, are being respected and cared for by the Society. We are part of this legacy that you and I will continue to maintain, improve and carry on as our vocation in serving Christ in the poor. We must ensure our service to the poor is meaningful and assuring. Our work must reflect and radiate our Christian way of life as disciples of Christ. We must continue to be an effective working and praying community and having Christ in the centre of our lives and all that we do. We must grow in this discipleship of Christ and be a better person, a better Vincentian and a better Christian.”
Let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and give glory to our Father in heaven. – Mt 5:16