International Confederation of SSVP
How Society of St Vincent de Paul Started in 1833
The Conference of Charity was founded by Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (a French lawyer, literary scholar and advocate; 1813–1853) along with six like-minded individuals in Paris, France in 1833.
The first members of the Conference of Charity were Ozanam, Emmanuel Joseph Bailly (Leader), Francois Lailier, Augustus Le Tallandier, Paul Lamache, Felix Clave, and Jules Devaux (treasurer). They had their first meeting on Tuesday, 23 April 1833 and resolved to bring assistance to the homes of a few poor people around the area.
The team became in close touch with the Daughters of Charity in organising distribution of help for the poor. And with the influence from Sister Rosalie Rendu (1786-1856), a nun from the Daughters of Charity, the newly-formed Conference of Charity took St Vincent de Paul as their patron saint, thus changing the name of the conference to the Society of St Vincent de Paul. The decision was made because the idea of helping the poor was in line with the works of St Vincent de Paul.
By the end of the first year, the society had grown into the point where it became necessary to be divided into several smaller groups. Thus, the Rule of The Conference was drafted, introducing the concept of “Council General”, and “Conference”. The first President-general was Joseph Emanuel Bailly, who was in charge from 1833 to 1844.
There were two motivating factors that helped to spread the Society among Catholic lay men and women. The first was the desire to see Christ in the poor and the other was the need to visit the less fortunate in their homes on a person-to-person basis, before any help could be given. These motivating factors pushed the Society’s rapid growth, not only in France, but also throughout the world.
By 1933, a century after it was started, the Society of St Vincent de Paul had representation in more than 33 Nations. In 2022, the Society of St Vincent de Paul is present in over 150 countries, with 800,000 members and 1,500,000 volunteers. Every day, it helps over 30 million people.
It is an associate member of UNESCO and a special adviser to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
It is also part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and is aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations in its Agenda 2030.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul of Singapore is part of the global Vincentian family.