Written by Sunnie Lain, Vincentian Support Services
Every year, on September 9th, Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul around the world celebrate the Feast Day of the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frederic Ozanam. Born in 1813 in Milan, Frederic was a gifted scholar who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. At that time, religion was under attack in Europe, and Frederic became a champion for the Catholic faith. At one point, one of his fellow students challenged him by saying, “show us your works!”. Frederic rose to the challenge. He and a group of his fellow students formed the “Conference of History”, and working with Daughters of Charity, they began to visit and help the poor in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Paris. All St. Vincent de Paul members are still based in groups called “Conferences” because of this first Conference founded by Frederic.
Meeting People Where They Live
The Daughters of Charity who taught Frederic and the first Vincentians how to help those in need felt strongly that it was critical to meet with those in need in their homes. Frederic wrote, “The knowledge of social wellbeing and reform is not to be learned not from books…but by sitting by [the person in need’s] bedside, feeling the same cold that pierces him, hearing the secret of his lonely…mind”. This tradition of meeting people in their homes, maintaining their confidentiality and dignity, and truly seeing Christ in them, is still the heart of what we do as members of St. Vincent de Paul today.
Frederic’s Legacy Lives On
Frederic was a pioneer in many ways. He spoke out against abuse of children, unsafe conditions in industry, and government corruption. He envisioned the establishment of a network of charity that would span the world. His dream has been realized –there are now Conferences in over 140 countries around the world. Sadly, he died in 1853 when he was just 40 years old, but his legacy lives on in hundreds of thousands of Vincentians who have followed in his footsteps, still meeting with and serving those in need in any way possible. You can be one of those people by getting involved in a Conference in your parish or by helping at one of our Special Works here in Dayton. Find your conference or donate today!
“Do not be afraid of new beginnings. Be creative. Be inventive. You who have energy: who have enthusiasm; who want to do something of value for the future; Be inventive, launch out; Do not wait!” -Blessed Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853)