From Paris in 1833 to Atlanta in 1903
Founder, Frederic Ozanam
In 1833, a 20-year-old college student and his friends began serving the poor in Paris, France. This was the beginning of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Today, there are more than 700,000 members serving in 144 countries around the globe.
The Society came to the United States in 1845 when a conference was formed in St. Louis, Missouri. The first presence of the Society in Georgia began in1903 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta.
There are 73 Conferences in the Atlanta Council involving more than 3,000 members in spiritual growth, friendship and service to the poor throughout north and central Georgia. Last year, St. Vincent de Paul Georgia served more than 155,000 with $8 million is tangible and in-kind resources.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul originated in Paris, France, in 1833. Frédéric Ozanam, a young Sorbonne student, met regularly with his fellow Catholic students to discuss the issues of the day. At one of their public meetings, a challenger admitted that the Catholic Church, at one time, had been a great source of good, but asked, “What is your Church doing now?… Show us your works and we will believe you.” Unable to respond, Frédéric and his friends conceded that they weren’t doing much, but this challenge inspired in them a desire for action.
Shortly afterward, Frédéric drew six friends together and inspired them to create the Conference of Charity, with the purpose of serving the poor of Paris. Frédéric and his friends decided that no act of charity would be foreign to their organization. For people in need, the Conference members provided food, clothing, shelter, and financial and spiritual assistance. They also established tutoring programs and libraries.
Sr. Rosalie Rendu
Under the guidance of Sr. Rosalie Rendu, Frédéric impressed upon the Conference members the importance of offering the kindness, respect and compassion to the people they visited. In his view, this was as essential to their service as the food or clothing they brought with them.
Frédéric chose the 17th-century priest St. Vincent de Paul, known as the Apostle of Charity, as patron of the Conference. Subsequently, the Conference of Charity was renamed the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The Old Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri, where the St. Vincent de Paul Society started in the United States
Ozanam’s faith was very important to him and it guided him throughout his life. He was also a very humble and compassionate man. These traits enabled him to successfully assist many people in need and laid the foundation for the Society to spread throughout the world. As the Society grew, its members established volunteer groups in parishes. These groups became known as Conferences. The Society started in the United States in 1845 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1903, the first Conference in Georgia was formed by parishioners at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta. The Atlanta Council of the Society was instituted in 1914 to serve as a resource and support system for the Conferences.