Our Patron Saint

Vincent de Paul was born in France in 1581, one of six children of a peasant family. His intelligence was recognized by the local parish priest and, at great sacrifice to his family, he was educated, developed a vocation and was ordained in 1600. While serving as chaplain to aristocrats, he recognized the disparity between the rich and poor and learned to use his friendships with the rich to help finance programs for the poor.

After various assignments, he began traveling to various towns giving missions. He organized the Confraternities of Charity for the assistance of the poor in most of the towns following the missions. Vincent realized that the good works done by the Confraternities in country places would not last unless there were priests to maintain them and there was a shortage of priests at that time in France. Vincent established the Ecclesiastical Conference to increase the number of the vocations and enhance training. Members of the Conference, now known as the Vincentians, are priests and laymen who, after a period of probation, take four simple vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability. They live from a common fund and devote themselves to sanctifying their own spirits and converting sinners. They teach Catechism, preach, reconcile differences, perform charitable deeds, staff seminaries, and now flourish in all parts of the world.

Vincent also had a passion for helping suffering people. He organized a group of aristocratic women to help him serve the poor. These women became The Ladies of Charity, an organization that is still widespread today. The Ladies had so much work that Vincent collaborated with Louise de Marrillac (St. Louise) to bring young girls from the villages to help the Ladies with their work. These young women were the first members of the Daughters of Charity, “seculars” as Louise declared. They lived in houses, not convents; their cloister was the city streets; their enclosure was their commitment to God and service. They gave their lives to visiting the sick in their homes, ministering in hospitals, caring for prisoners, orphans, the mentally ill, and the homeless. Vincent and Louise had done something revolutionary – they had created a community of women who ministered outside the confines of a cloister. Eventually, apostolic congregations of women would multiply and flourish.

One of Vincent’s most famous letters is a heartrending plea challenging wealthy women to help orphans:

Compassion and love led you to adopt these tiny creatures as your own children…You became their mothers by grace… If you continue your loving help for their sustenance, they will live. If you withdraw it, they will certainly pass away and die. Hard experience tells you there is no doubt about it.

In addition to the poor and sick of the country, Vincent’s solicitude was directed toward imprisoned convicts in the galleys. The condemned convicts, with chains on their legs, were crowded into damp dungeons. Their only food was black bread and water, and they were covered with vermin and ulcers. Their moral state was still more horrible than their physical misery. Vincent wished to ameliorate both. He visited the convicts, speaking kind words to them and providing services. He thus won their hearts, converted many of them, and established hospitals for their care. In countless ways, Vincent taught that Jesus lived among the poor and outcast people. Vincent had a special gift for drawing people into gospel service and then organizing them to work for the long-term good. Jesus’ mission belonged to all Christians, and Vincent helped people become part of that mission.

Although he had no advantages of birth, fortune, or handsome appearance, Vincent’s life became a long record of accomplishment. He looked on all events as manifestations of the Divine Will yet, by nature, he once wrote of himself, that he was “of a bilious temperament and very subject to anger,” and that without divine grace, he would have been “in temper hard and repellent, rough and crabbed.” He also said, “‚Ķevery day God has confirmed my faith that our Lord died for us all and that He desires to save the whole world.”

The Ladies of Charity, now the Saint Vincent Teams, the Sisters of the Christian Union, the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, and the Congregation of the Mission (Lazarists or Vincentians), were all founded by Vincent de Paul. Other institutions claim his spirit: the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, the Religious of Saint Vincent de Paul, and many women’s congregations. Vincent de Paul’s life has influenced millions of people, both those giving and those receiving, all over the world.

Vincent, who died in 1660, was beatified by Benedict XIII, and canonized by Clement XII in 1737. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him patron of all charitable societies. He is usually pictured with children and his feast day is celebrated on September 27th.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 by a group of Catholic students, in response to a challenge of another student:

Christianity has done wonders in the past, but now it is dead! You who boast of being Catholics, what do you do? What are your activities, activities that prove your faith?

One of the students, Fredrick Ozanam, an admirer of Vincent de Paul, responded: “Let us not speak so much of charity – let us rather do it and let us help the poor.” Under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, the Society was formed and, within a few years, spread to several countries. Fredrick Ozanam was declared “Blessed” on August 22, 1997.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul is active in 132 countries and 5 continents. Its work involves all forms of aid by individual contact in order to promote the dignity and integrity of man, a fundamental rule of the Society. The Society carries out the vision of St. Vincent de Paul: to see God in the face of the poor. Salt Lake City has a St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen where our parishioners take turns with other churches serving food to the homeless.