St Vincent de Paul Society
[ History |
Our Patron |
How You Can Help ]
The St Vincent de Paul Society at the Cathsoc is our student volunteer group. It
is associated with the international SVP movement. We are committed to obey Our Lord’s
command to love God and our neighbour by helping those in need.
History of the SVP
In 1833, Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, a 20-year-old student at the Paris Sorbonne,
was challenged at a debate by an atheist who asked: “What is your Church doing now? What is she
doing for the poor in Paris? Show us your works, and we will believe you.”
An embarrassed Frédéric knew in his heart that the Church was doing very little
to help. From that chance remark and challenge, Frédéric and six fellow students
gathered in the office of journalist Emmanuel Baily on 23rd April 1833, and formed the first
Conference of Charity.
Frédéric was driven by a deep desire to find a way to help build the faith of his
peers. Their purpose was simple: as a small group of friends, they would become servants of the
poor in Paris, just as the Lord had been Servant to the people of His time.
With the help of his friends and Sister Rosalie Rendu, the fledgling group grew and later chose
St Vincent de Paul, the great patron saint of the poor, to be its patron. Thus the SVP was born.
Frédéric continued to be active in his academic life and became a lecturer of foreign
literature as well as law at the University of Lyon. He married Amélie Soulacroix in June
1841. Together husband and wife devoted themselves to the task of reconciling married life to a
life of good works.
However, under the strain of considerable work, Frédéric continued serving the poor
without rest. His health finally gave out and he died in 1853, aged 40. He gave his life totally
to God. Therefore it is not surprising that when encouraged by his confessor on his deathbed not
to fear but to trust in God, he replied, “Why should I fear Him when I love Him so?”
The SVP now exists in over 125 countries worldwide and is closely connected with other caring agencies,
such as CAFOD and Let Live, the De Paul and Advent Trusts to support young homeless and unemployed people
in British cities, and with the Vincentian Fathers and the Daughters of Charity, who do so much for the
poor in the Third World.
Pope John Paul II beatified Frédéric Ozanam on 22nd August 1997 at the Notre Dame de
Our Patron — St Vincent de Paul
St Vincent de Paul was born poor and initially longed for a life of wealth.
Highly intelligent, he spent four years with the Franciscan friars at Acqs getting
an education. Becoming tutor to children of the de Gondi family in Acqs, he later
began divinity studies in 1596 at the University of Toulouse and was ordained at age
On route to his new parish, he was taken captive by Turkish pirates to Tunis, and sold
into slavery. He was freed in 1607 when he converted one of his owners to Christianity.
Returning to France, St Vincent served as a parish priest near Paris where he started
organisations to help the poor, nursed the sick, and found jobs for the unemployed. He was
appointed Chaplain at the court of Henry IV of France and instituted the Congregation of
Priests of the Mission. With St Louise de Marillac, he also founded the Congregation
of the Daughters of Charity.
St Vincent pledged his life to the sick and insane, orphans and old people, beggars and
the starving, prisoners and galley slaves. There was no form of poverty — physical, emotional
or spiritual — which he did not try to alleviate. Mostly, he was committed to the poor sinful
men and women who did not know the great love God had for them. Tireless in his work for the
less fortunate, St Vincent continued in his acts of charity into his eightieth year when
he succumbed to illness and departed to his reward on 27th September 1660.
St Vincent de Paul was canonised in 1737 by Pope Clement XII and became the patron saint of
Christian charity. His incorrupt body remains at the Church dedicated to him in Paris.
How You Can Help
It is a Christian’s duty to help his or her neighbour, in order to face the challenge
“to practise what you preach”. That is why members here are actively involved in
community work in Canterbury and have a good working relationship with our adopted
Our SVP Group is ideal for busy students who are already committed to demanding academic
courses. Members are asked to dedicate only two hours a week to helping out in the community.
We are advised by the local SVP Representative, Mr Winston Waller, who is also
a Senior Lecturer at the University.
As students and, most importantly, as young people, we have the energy and the enthusiasm
to bring happiness and hope to those who have lost the vigour in their spirits and their hearts.
Letting them know that there are people who care for them and assist them in their needs is a
very satisfying experience.
Our SVP Group meets every Tuesday at 7:10pm at
St John Stone House. Everybody is welcome to the meetings to
learn more about our work and activities.
E-mail for more information
The SVP UK website