The St. Vincent de Paul Society was founded in Paris in 1833
by a young French university student at the Sorbonne, Frédéric Ozanam, to confront the devastating poverty of Paris. Inspired by the charitable works of St. Vincent de Paul, who had an untiring commitment to serving the poor, Ozanam’s mission was to help the needy on a one-on-one basis and “accomplish through charity what justice alone cannot do.”
The Society took St. Vincent de Paul as its patron under the influence of Sister Rosalie Rendu, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, a group of religious women who take vows to serve the poor. Sr. Rosalie, who was well known for her work with the most poverty stricken people in the slums of Paris and guided Frédéric and his companions in their mission to help those in need.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco was established in 1860.
The purpose of the Society is to help the neediest members of the community to become as self-sufficient as possible. The Society helps over 1,000 people in San Francisco every day, including those suffering from poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
Almost one million people around the world are members of the Society.
They often call themselves “Vincentians”, in tribute to St. Vincent de Paul. What they all have in common is a desire to serve poor and suffering people – the homeless, the sick, the lonely, and the elderly. Vincentians deliver food, visit shut-ins, purchase personal care items, clothing and furniture, provide transportation, and assist in many other ways. As members of local parishes, they perform their charity in parish groups known as “Conferences”. Today, there are over 350 Vincentians (adults and youth) who serve in 31 parish Conferences, 2 youth grammar school Conferences, and 6 shelter program locations.
All persons are welcome to participate in the work and mission of the Society. The Society serves the poor regardless of creed, race, or sexual orientation.