Société de Saint-Vincent de Paul
Société de Saint-Vincent de Paul, Catholic organization dedicated to works of charity. It was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old Sorbonne student in Paris. Ozanam and 6 other students formed the society in response to taunts that Christianity had outlived its usefulness, especially to the poor. The students put themselves under the patronage of St Vincent de Paul, who had called attention to social problems 200 years before, and set themselves to bringing assistance to the poor.
The conference grew to more than 200 members in the first year and soon spread to the provinces of France and to Rome (1842), England (1844), Germany (1846) and throughout Europe. Dr Joseph Painchaud joined the conference in Paris, and on returning home to Québec in 1846 founded the Notre-Dame Conference. Conferences were organized in Montréal (1848), Toronto (1850) and throughout British North America.
The efforts of the Vincentians have been focused on the parish level, although some conferences are formed for specific purposes or places, such as jails, schools or homes for the aged. Its main objectives are to encourage "the practice of Christian living," to visit, help and bring comfort to the poor and infirm. Today, the society functions in 145 countries, with a membership of over one million. In Canada there are some 950 conferences with over 10 000 members.