Founder Blessed Frederic Ozanam

Frederic Ozanam was born on April 1813 in Milan, to Jean and Marie Ozanam. He was the fifth child of 14 Children, one of only three to reach adulthood. His family, which was of Jewish origin, had been settled in the region around Lyon, France for many centuries. An ancestor Frederic, Jacques Ozanam (1640 – 1717) was a noted mathematician. Jean Ozanam, Frederic’s Father, had served in the armies of the First French Republic, but with the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the founding of the first French Empire, he turned to trade, to teaching, and finally to medicine.

In his youth he experienced a period of doubt regarding the Catholic faith, during which he was strongly influenced by one of his teachers at the College de Lyon, the priest Abbe Noirot. His conservative and religious instincts showed themselves early, and he published Réflexions sur la Doctrine de Saint-Simon a pamphlet against Saint-Simonianism in 1831, which attracted the attention of the French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine, born in the area. Ozanam also found time to help organize and write for the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, a lay Catholic organization founded in the city with the aim of supporting Catholic missionaries, of which many came from the area. That autumn he went to study law in Paris, where he suffered a great deal from homesickness. Ozanam fell in with the Ampère family (living for a time with the mathematician André-Marie Ampère), and through them with other prominent Catholics of the time, such as Count François-René de Chateaubriand, Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, and Charles Forbes René de Montalembert.

While still a student, Frédéric took up journalism and contributed considerably to Bailly's Tribune catholique, which became L'Univers, a French Catholic daily newspaper that adopted a strongly ultramontane position. Ozanam and his friends revived a discussion group called a "Society of Good Studies" and formed it into a "Conference of History" which quickly became a forum for large and lively discussions among students. Their attentions turned frequently to the social teachings of the Gospel. At one meeting during a heated debate in which Ozanam and his friends were trying to prove from historical evidence alone the truth of the Catholic Church as the one founded by Christ, their adversaries declared that, though at one time the Church was a source of good, it no longer was. One voice issued the challenge, "What is your church doing now? What is she doing for the poor of Paris? Show us your works and we will believe you!"

As a consequence, in May 1833 Frédéric and a group of other young men founded the charitable Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which already by the time of his death numbered upwards of 2,000 members. The founding members developed their method of service under the guidance of a Sister (now a Blessed) Rosalie Rendu, a member of the Congregation of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, who was prominent in serving the poor in the slums of Paris. The members of the conferences collaborated with Sister Rosalie during the time of the cholera epidemic. When fear had gripped the population, she organized the conferences in all the neighborhoods of Paris to care for the cholera victims, becoming well known in the city for her work, especially in the 12th arrondissement. Frederic's first act of charity was to take his supply of winter firewood and bring it to a widow whose husband had died of cholera.

Ozanam received the degrees of Bachelor of Laws in 1934, Bachelor of Arts in 1835 and Doctor of Laws in 1836. His father, who had wanted him to study law, died on May12, 1837. Although he preferred literature, Frederic worked in the legal profession in order to support his mother, and was admitted to the Bar in Lyon in 1837. Still, he also pursued his personal interest, and in 1839 he obtained the degree of Doctor of Letters with a thesis on Dante that then formed the basis of Ozanam's best-known books. A year later he was appointed to a professorship of commercial law at Lyon, and in 1840, at the age of twenty-seven, assistant professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. He decided to give a course of lectures on German Literature in the middle ages and in preparation for it went on a short tour of Germany. His lectures proved highly successful despite the fact that he attached fundamental importance to Christianity as the primary factor in the growth of European civilization, unlike his predecessors and most of his colleagues, who shared in the predominantly anti-Christian climate of the Sorbonne at that time.

In June 1841, he married Amélie Soulacroix, daughter of the rector of the University of Lyon, and the couple travelled to Italy for their honeymoon. They had a daughter, Marie. Candelas describe Ozanam as "A man of great faith. He valued friendships and defended his friends no matter what the cost. He was attentive to details, perhaps to the extreme. He showed a great tenderness when dealing with his family. He had a great reverence for his parents, and revealed his ability to sacrifice his career and his profession in order to please them.

Upon the death in 1844 of Claude Charles Fauriel, Ozanam succeeded to the full professorship of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. The remainder of his short life was extremely busy, attending to his duties as a professor, his extensive literary activities, and the work of district-visiting as a member of the society of St Vincent de Paul.

During the French Revolution of 1848, of which he took a sanguine view, he once more turned journalist by writing, for a short time, in various papers, including the Ère nouvelle ("New Era"), which he had founded. He traveled extensively, and visited England at the time of the Exhibition of 1851.

His naturally weak constitution, however, fell a prey to consumption, which he hoped to cure by visiting Italy, but on his return to France, he died in Marseille on September 8, 1853 at the age of forty. He was buried in the crypt of the church of St. Joseph des Carmes at the Institut Catholique in Paris.


“Love the poor. Honour them, my children, as you would honour Christ himself”

Vincent de paul was born in the small southern French town of Pouy (later renamed St. Vincent De Paul in his honour) on 24th April 1581 and ordained as a priest in 1600 at the age of 19. As a young man he ministered to the wealthy and powerful. However an appointment as chaplain to a poor parish, and to galley prisoners, inspired him to a vocation of working with those most marginalised and powerless.

Vincent urged his followers to bring God’s justice and love to people who were unable to live a full human life. Deal with the most urgent needs. Organize charity so that it is more efficient.. teach reading and writing, educate with the aim of giving each the means of self support. Intervene with authorities to obtain reforms in structure... there is no charity without justice. Vincent de Paul died in Paris on 27th September 1660 at the age of 79. He was canonised on 16th June 1737 and, in 1883, the church designated him as the special patron of all charitable associations.

The society was named after Saint Vincent de Paul and follows his teachings and compassion for people in need. Saint Vincent de Paul is the international patron of the Society.

Spirit of the Society

Vincentians are united in an international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing. Inspired by Gospel values, the society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic Lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person to person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, blessed Frederic Ozanam and patron St. Vincent de Paul.

As a reflection of the whole family of God, members, who are known as Vincentians, are drawn from every ethnic and cultural background, age group, and economic level. Vincentians are united in an international society of charity by their spirit of poverty, humility and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings and adherence to a basic Rule.

Organized locally, Vincentians witness God’s love by embracing all works of charity and justice. The society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addressing its causes, making no distinction in those served because, in them, Vincentians see the face of Christ.

Youth in the Society

I invite you to plant seeds in your young people that one day will grow to nourish the future development of the Society. I remember when i was young how Emmanuel and Sr. Roselie believed, guided and encouraged me to serve the poor. I encourage you to do the same with young and young adults in your parish. Do not be afraid to sow many seeds and be open to the many new possibilities of engaging young people in the society. Take these new ideas, use them and support the hopes and dreams of others. Challenges yourself – be inventive and persistent in putting creative ideas into practice as you continue to develop our network of charity around the world. ” - Frederic Ozanam, Founder, Society St. Vincent de Paul.

The involvement of Youth and Young Adults is an ongoing process that began with the beginning of the society of St. Vincent de Paul by Frederic Ozanam and his friends. It is the responsibility of every member in the society to collaborate and brainstorm with the young people who are the future of the society.

Women in the Society

At first, women were practically absent from the university and did not take part in the creation of the group. However, despite the existence of the ladies of charity, founded for young women by Saint Vincent himself and Louise de Marillac, woman wished to join the society and follow the rules set by the founders. Thus on 10th January 1856, celestina Scatabelli founded in Bolonia, a female branch of the society of Saint Vincent de Paul. The two branches merged together on 20th October 1967, during an international assembly in Paris, a few months later, the merger of the society with the Louise de Marillac Movement took place. In India women play an active role in the functioning of the society.

Aggregation and Institution

Aggregation of a Conference and Institution of a Council by the International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris is a formal recognition of admission into the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Every Conference which desires to obtain admission into the Society must apply to the International Confederation of Society of St. Vincent de Paul for Aggregation. The Councils will also have to follow the same procedure for Institution by International Confederation of Society of St. Vincent de Paul.