The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Christian lay voluntary organization dedicated to tackling poverty and disadvantage by providing practical assistance to those in need – irrespective of ideology, faith, ethnicity, age or gender. The vision of SSVP is to be a global catholic charity organization providing aid, development and hope to the poor and the marginalized.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 to help impoverished people living in the slums of Paris, France. Blessed Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the Society was a French lawyer, author, and professor in the Sorbonne. He was only 20 years old when he founded the society. Frederic Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The Society took the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Vincent de Paul as its patrons under the influence of Sister Rosalie Rendu who guided Frederic and his companions in their approach towards those in need. She was beatified in November 2003 by Pope John Paul II. The Society is an accredited UN NGO and has presence in Newyork, Geneva and UNESCO in Paris.
The Society was first introduced in India by the French Missionaries at Pondicherry during the Year 1852-53 as a non-aggregated Conference. The Society was officially started in India in 1863 when some conferences in Bombay were aggregated and the Bombay Particular Council was instituted. Thenonwards the Society continued to grow in India.On 09.11.1953 the Superior Council of India was established and instituted with the Council General International. The Superior Council of India was renamed as National Council of India on 06.08.1973. The National Council of India has its Headquarters in Mumbai and the present President’s secretariat is at Thodupuzha, Kerala with the election of Bro. Johnson Varghese as the 13th National President of India with effect from 28th February 2015.
The National Council of India is registered under the Income Tax Act 1961with exemption under Sec 80G, FCRA under the ministry of HomeAffairs and Societies Regn. Act and Bombay Public Trust Act 1950.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul began in Paris, France, in the year 1833 when a young law student at the Sorbonne, Frederic Ozanam, was challenged during a debate to demonstrate what he and his fellow Catholic students were personally doing to help the poor in the city of Paris. Ozanam's reaction was immediate. Within weeks, Ozanam, at 20 years of age, and six of his peers formed the first "Conference of Charity." Under the conference, this group of seven men financed their works of charity out of their own pockets and from contributions of well wishers. They visited the poor near their homes, providing them with needed aid and assistance. At the prompting of Monsieur Emmanuel Bailly and Sister Rosalie Rendu, superior of a convent of the Daughters of Charity, Ozanam soon placed the conference under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul who had spent his life in 16th century serving the poor in France. Within few years, the original group of seven grew to 600, spreading to 15 other cities and towns in France, numbering more than 2,000 members. SVP gradually expanded outside Paris in the mid-19th century. From a small Conference of Charity, today the Society has spread throughout the world, thus fulfilling the wish of its founder “I would like to embrace the world in a network of Charity”.
In the early 19th century, Paris was in the grip of social and political unrest. The revolution of July dealt a fatal blow to the old Bourbon monarchy. Religion was in decline and atheism was gaining ground. Many agricultural workers were leaving the fields in search of work in the large cities. Once they arrived, the majority found only unemployment, minimal salary or factories closed due to political divergence.
In 1832, a cholera epidemic spread through the city of Paris, killing more than 1200 people per day. In the slums that had formed around the outskirts of the city, thousands of people lived without any resources, some inhabitants in total destitution. Frederic Ozanam, then a young student of Law, had to pass through the poorest neighbourhoods in order to attend his courses at university. He became profoundly affected by the despair of families decimated by the epidemic. Ozanam and some of his friends – who together took part in history conferences where they debated world events – decided to get together as Christians; not to talk, but to act: to set up a Conference of Charity. Emmanuel Bailly approved of their project. He provided them with the editorial office of the catholic Tribune as a place to meet, as well as agreeing to lead the new team.
The first meeting took place on 23rd April 1833, a close to St. Sulpice Church it was made up of Emmauel Bailly, Paul Lamache, Felix Clave, Auguste Le Taillandier, Jules Devaux, Francis Lallier and Frederic Ozanam.
The principle of a weekly meeting had already been agreed with the main activity consisting of house visits to the poor. The group placed themselves under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul and under the protection of the Virgin Mary. The team built up a relationship with a member of the Daughters of Charity, Sr. Rosalie Rendu, who organized the distribution of aid from a welfare office in the neighbourhood around Mouffetard Street, then in the 12th District of Paris. The society of St. Vincent de Paul was born.
Frederic Ozanam wrote on 24th July 1834: “I wish that all those that are young of hearts and mind come together in acts of charity; and that a large world-wide organization is set up with the aim of providing aid and support to the working classes”. His wish had come true very soon, at the end of that very year the group was now made up of even more 100 members! It was necessary to consider dividing the group. On 24th January 1835, two sections were created with Ozanam became vice – president of the first group. The regions soon followed: As students left Paris after finishing their studies they began setting up conferences: Nimes – 10th February 1835, Lyon – 16th august 1836, then Rennes, Nantes...
In 1836 a “Management Council” was required which soon took the title of the General Council; a name that is still used to this very day.
Today, the society continues to grow. This growth is mainly in developing countries which now make up to two thirds of the conferences. This new model has led the SSVP to become a forerunner in reflection and action in favour of development with partners in developing countries.
Today about 8,00,000 active members and 1.5 million volunteers spread over 150 countries preserve the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and the charity work of Frederic Ozanam and his friends, in continuing to provide aid to those most in need whilst maintaining alive the message of Christ.
The Society was first introduced in India by the French Missionaries at Pondicherry during the Year 1852-53 as a non-aggregated Conference. The Society was officially started in India in 1863 when some conferences in Bombay were aggregated and the Bombay Particular Council was instituted. Thenonwards the Society continued to grow in India.On 09.11.1953 the Superior Council of India was established and instituted with the Council General International. The Superior Council of India was renamed as National Council of India on 06.08.1973. The National Council of India has its Headquarters in Mumbai and the present President’s secretariat is at Chennai, Tamil Nadu with the election of Bro. S. Jude ZR Mangalraj as the 14th National President of India with effect from 28th February 2021.
The National Council of India is registered under the Income Tax Act 1961 with exemption under Sec 80G, FCRA under the ministry of HomeAffairs and Societies Regn. Act and Bombay Public Trust Act 1950.