23 April 2018 marked the 185th anniversary of the founding of the society of St Vincent de Paul. 185 years ago, on this day, a group of French lay Catholics, devotees and visionaries, met to found the first “Charity Conference”, later known as the “Society of St. Vincent de Paul”. What motivated those men of faith was the practice of charity, personal sanctification, friendship between them and the construction of a more just world based on the values of the Gospel.
Currently, the SSVP is present in 153 countries, bringing together 800,000 members and more than 1 million volunteers, helping 30 million people a year. That first Conference (Saint-Étienne-du-Mont) has been transformed into 50,000 new “communities of faith and service”. The dream of Ozanam has been fulfilled: “I would like to embrace the world in a network of charity.”
This common spirit of friendship is illustrated by Emmanuel Joseph Bailly, the first President General, in his introduction to the Rule of 1835:
“The feelings of brotherhood among the members will turn our hearts into one heart, and all our souls in a single soul, and this will make our Fraternal Society dearer. Though we love our humble Society very much, we must know that it is a work born of the mercy of God. ”
I would like to congratulate you, our members, on the service rendered to God’s poor and the Church. May God continue to fill us with blessings and may the Virgin Mary protect us. We remember with gratitude Ozanam, Bailly, Lallier, Clavé, Le Taillandier, Lamache, Devaux, and Sister Rosalie Rendu. Here in Scotland, we are proud of the eleven members of our first Conference founded in Edinburgh in 1845. Particularly pleasing is that one of these members is recorded as “Samuel Philips, Student.”- Jim McKendrick, National President of SSVP Scotland.