Monday, 4 February 2013

Catholic Welfare Agency Celebrates 200 Years

The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP) celebrates the bi-centenary of the birth of its founder Bl Frederic Ozanam in 2013 and is still very much alive and active.

On 23rd April 1833, Frederic Ozanam's 20th birthday, the first meeting took place at 18, rue du Petit-Bourbon, (today 38, rue St. Sulpice) in the offices of the newspaper "La Tribune Catholique", of which Emmanuel Bailly was Chief Editor.

Bailly had gathered around him six students of the Sorbonne University, Paris, who were between the ages of 19 and 23. This small group, united by a sound friendship, became the "Conference of Charity", and placed itself less than a year later, under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, whose spirit and example inspired them. Thus The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was born.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam
Its first President was Emmanuel Bailly, but its most symbolic figure was unquestionably Frederic Ozanam. Bailly realised that it was one thing to debate religion in history circles within the safe and privileged surroundings of the Sorbonne, and quite another to go out into the slums of Paris to serve the poor; it was providential that he, as President, saw fit to send his young friends to Sister Rosalie Rendu, herself a Vincentian Daughter of Charity, who lived and worked in the destitute neighbourhood of the rue Mouffetard, Paris. She grasped immediately the vocation of these enthusiastic and generous young people. She led them to the poor and taught them how to serve those in need with love and respect and in the most authentic tradition of St. Vincent de Paul. The tradition of visiting on a " person to person contact basis" became the first young members' trademark, and so it remains today.

It is difficult not to marvel at the amazing growth of the Society, which is truly international, now having a presence in about 150 countries in the world. From just a few members in 1833, it had grown to 76,500 members in 1883 and by 1913 had nearly doubled its membership to 134,000. In 2013, 200 years since it began, there are over 700,000 member volunteers in the world.

A major Pilgrimage, starting at Lyons, where Frederic lived as a young person, is due to take place in April 2013 and will end in Paris, the traditional headquarters of the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul. On 6th July there will be an SVP National Meeting at Birmingham Cathedral Hall and the next day, 7th July, SVP members will have the opportunity to attend the Walsingham National Pilgrimage.

Please think about becoming a member in this momentous year, by contacting your parish SVP group. If you cannot become a member, why not become a Friend of the SVP? Go to the SVP website for more information.

Thank you to Peter Wells from the SVP for this story.


  1. Is there any reason why this official diocesan blog is standing idly by in the run-up to the vote on same sex marriage?

    Your news items are either wilfully blind to the current emergency, or indicate that those in control of the blog are ideologically sympathetic to the Prime Minister's proposal. It is either one or the other.

  2. Francis might like to look at the diocesan website and its main feature speak out for marriage or subscribe to the diocesan email newsletter which last week lead with the issue or even go to the AB Diocese facebook or twitter sites which also had the issue promoted. Previous blogs have over the months dealt with issue of same-sex marriage.