Q. Why is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul named for that particular saint?
A. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was established in Paris in 1833 as a Catholic lay organization for helping the poor and sick. The founder was Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813–1853), who with his associates was mentored by Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity. The Society was first established in the United States in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1845, and now serves in 140 countries.
Last year, in the U.S. alone the organization’s trained volunteers, nearly 100,000 of them, helped more than 5.4 million people through visits to homes, prisons, and hospitals; housing assistance; disaster relief; job training and placement; food pantries; dining halls; clothing; transportation and utility costs; care for the elderly; and medicine, at a value of more than $1.1. billion. The Society has an energetic conference here in St. Catherine’s parish and operates a food pantry and thrift store in Kennesaw.
St. Vincent de Paul (1581–1660; feast day, September 27) was chosen as the patron of the Society because he had devoted his life to serving the poor, the sick, and captives. He was the founder of the Daughters of Charity, Confraternities of Charity, and Ladies of Charity. St. Vincent became known as the “The Apostle of Charity” and “Father of the Poor,” and is now recognized as the patron saint of charitable societies.