rulebookThe Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) was founded in Paris as a result of the spiritual aspirations and social commitment felt by a group of students led by Frederic Ozanam (beatified in 1997). SSVP has a Rule, which sets out its vocation, organization and mission.

The first rule was authored in 1835 By Emmanuel Bailly, Francois Lallier, and Frederic Ozanam. Additions, revisions, and commentaries occurred in 1935 and 1953. The Rule changed to admit women to membership in 1968.

The Rule was revised in 1973 to reflect the directives of Vatican II and the Renewal of the Society. It was revised in 2004 to bring the inspirations of 1835 Into the 21st Century.

Since 1520, only about 85 institutions have remained continuously in existence. Among them:

Parliaments of Great Britain and Iceland
About 70 universities
The Catholic Church
Thousands have been born and died!

How do you think the Rule has kept the St. Vincent de Paul Society true to its mission for over 175 years?

Selected Excerpts from The Rule

The Rule of SVDP, Section 1: Vocation and Purpose

home-visit11.2 The Vincentian Vocation

The vocation of the Society’s members, who are called Vincentians, is to follow Christ through service to those in need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating love. Members show their commitment through person-to-person contact. Vincentians serve in hope.

1.3 Any form of personal help…

No work of charity is foreign to the Society. It includes any form of help that alleviates suffering or deprivation and promotes human dignity and personal integrity in all their dimensions.

1.4…to anyone in need

The Society serves those in need regardless of creed, ethnic or social background, health, gender, or political opinions.

1.5 To Seek Out the Poor

Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need and the forgotten, the victims of exclusion or adversity.

The Rule of SVDP, Section 3: Use of Money and Property for the Poor

20-bucks3.14 The use of money and property for the poor

Vincentians should never forget that giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money. Nevertheless, the Society uses money and property to help relieve the suffering of those in need. The Society’s funds must be handled with the utmost care, prudence and generosity. Money must not be hoarded. Decisions regarding the use of money and property are to be made after reflection in the light of the Gospel and Vincentian principles. Accurate records must be kept of all money received or spent. The Society may not allot funds to other organizations, except occasionally for other branches of the Vincentian Family, save under exceptional circumstances.

The Rule of SVDP, Section 7: Vision

7.1 The Society gives immediate help but also seeks mid-term and long-term solutions

The Society is concerned not only with alleviating need but also with identifying the unjust structures that cause it. It is, therefore, committed to identifying the root causes of poverty and to contributing to their elimination. In all its charitable actions there should be a search for justice; in its struggle for justice, the Society must keep in mind the demands of charity.

7.2 A vision of the civilization of love
Affirming the dignity of each human being as created in God’s image, and Jesus’ particular identification with those who are excluded by society, Vincentians envision a more just society in which the rights, responsibilities and development of all people are promoted.

As citizens of one world, Vincentians listen to the voice of the Church which demands their participation in creating a more equitable and compassionate social order, promoting the culture of life and the civilization of love. In this way, the Society shares the Church’s mission to evangelise the world through visible witness, in both actions and words.

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15 Comments on “The Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul”

  1. What was the reason women were not allowed to join this society not 1868 but 1968? Was it because they needed more volunteers and not enough men were joining?

    1. I don’t have the “official answer” but from what I have heard, the Society was started as a men’s group. At the time, one of the original founders’ wives, Emmanuel Bailly’s wife, recommended that it should be the work of men. However, there have always been women’s auxiliaries that have helped behind the scenes. It wasn’t until around 1968 that the international society voted to allow women to be members. I was told that our first women members in the United States came in around 1973 after the American Manual was published with the change in Rule. Perhaps it had something to do with the growth in women’s rights. A woman, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, D.C., played a huge part in guiding and setting an example for the original founders.

  2. can a saint vincent groups buy food for the poor, pay over due bills, build ramps for elderly. give money to other charity groups.

    1. They can do all those things except give money to other charity groups– that is not allowed.

  3. I have asked several people about meaning/origin of the name Particular Council and haven’t been successful in finding any information.

    Can anyone share some insights…..

    1. This is the answer I received from the National Director of Governance & Membership Services at SVDPUSA… “In response to your inquiry, to my knowledge the term ‘particular’ was developed by the Council General International in Paris to describe the first SVdP Council created within a Diocese. Over time, the term evolved to become ‘district,’ ‘diocesan’ or ‘archdiocesan’ depending on the growth of the Society within thereof.”

    1. In response to your inquiry, the requirements to be considered an active member are: (1) must be Catholic, (2) attends meetings regularly, and (3) participates in the activities works and life of the Conference to grow in holiness. All three must be met to be an Active Member. If #1 or #2 is missing, they are Associate Members. Non-Catholic Women & Men can indeed serve as Associate Members. The Rule, Part III, Statute 3 identifies clearly the membership types. – Received from the SVDP USA national office

  4. Does the rule of SVdP prohibit a conference from giving funds to an organization that provides relief to victims of disaster, such as flood, fires or other disasters

    1. Reply from SVDP USA National office: According to the Rule Part III Statue 26, this is not allowed. We are not allowed to give our funds to another organization – no matter how good the cause – not even an organization that provides relief to victims of disaster. The Society has our own Disaster Services Division and any support should be given to our own relief assistance. The funds were given to the Society to use in fulfilling our mission – not to give to other organizations to fulfill their missions.

    1. Answer from SVDP USA national office: In response to your inquiry, it is the intent of the Society (and its donors) that the money be spent to help those in need. Carrying funds over to the next year is not a problem as long as the intent is to spend the funds and not accumulate them in the bank.

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