How The Society Got Started
Frédéric Ozanam left his home in Lyon, France, in the autumn of 1831, for Paris. He registered in the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris.
Frédéric collaborated with Mr. Emmanuel Bailly, editor of the Tribune Catholique, in reviving a student organization which had been suspended during the revolutionary activity of July 1830. They called their new association "The Conference of History." The group met on Saturdays to discuss various topics, everything but polititcs. At one of their meetings, a student challenged Frédéric and the practicing Catholics. He admitted that the Catholic Church had done much good work in the past, but "what do you do now?"
Frédéric called for a meeting of five of his friends; they agreed to meet at Mr. Bailly's office. The date was April 23, 1833, Frédéric's twentieth birthday. Inspired by their words, Frédéric decided to found the "Conference of Charity" to assist the poor. Emmanuel Bailly, the married layman, was chosen by the six students as their first President. In a short time, they changed their name to The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in honor of their patron.
St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) was founder of the Congregation of the Mission, Daughters of Charity, Confraternities of Charity, and Ladies of Charity.
A man of deep faith, keen intellect, and enormous creativity, he has become known as the "The Apostle of Charity" and "Father of the Poor."
His contributions to the training of priests and organizing parish missions and other services for the poor shaped our Church's role in the modern world.