Original Founding: 1833
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Canada is a lay Catholic organization whose mission is : To Live the Gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice and joy. According to National Council statistics (www.ssvp.ca/national-council/statistics), in 2008,for the 175th Anniversary of the Society,145 countries ,50,238 conferences and 703,093 members from throughout the world were present. In statistics for 2009-2010, Canada registered 12,718 members.
Saint Vincent de Paul (1581- 1660), patron of the society, was named patron of works of charity by Pope Leo XIII. Vincent de Paul was born in a village in France and at a young age was enrolled in a boarding school run by Franciscans, was ordained to the priesthood in 1600, and received a degree in cannon law in 1623.During the early 1600’s, Fr. Vincent became more and more devoted to the service of the poor whom he felt were his lords and masters. Upon receiving a generous endowment from a family in Europe, Fr. Vincent set up missions and colleges in many countries and he established The Confraternities of Charity in 1617(now known as the International Association of Charities (IAC)). In 1663, Fr. Vincent co-founded the Daughters of Charity to carry out on-hands ministry to the poor. After spending most of his life servicing the material and spiritual needs of the poor, Fr. Vincent died on September 27,1660 and was canonized on June 16th,1737 by Pope Clement XII.
Blessed Frederic Ozanam is recognized as the main founder of the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul. While being a law student in Paris, young Frederic and some friends became strong advocates for their faith as a result of damage done by the Revolution of 1830. They decided to add action to demonstrate their faith and they met with a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to teaah them how to minister to the poor. By 1834, there were over 100 members and the conference became the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Frederic Ozanam spent a lifetime servicing the poor and working for the rights of the working class. He died on September 8, 1853 and Pope John-Paul II beautified him on August 22, 1997.
Origin of the Society in Canada
A Canadian student,Joseph Painchaud,Jr. (1819-1855) , while studying in Paris joined the Society.Upon returning to Canada, he introduced the Society into Canada by forming a conference at Notre Dame Basilica in Quebec. The Society expanded quickly and the first Particular Council ( 9 conferences) was instituted on October 11, 1847 in the Quebec City area.The Superior Council ( now National Council ) was created in 1850.The Society then expanded to other areas of Quebec and into Ontario. Mr. Michael Hannan founded the first Conference of the Atlantic Provinces in Halifax in 1853.Other conferences formed in St.John ,NB; Charlottetown,PE; and St. John’s NFLD. The Society expanded into the Western provinces in the early 1900’s. The establishment of the Society in different parts of the country was mostly due to the good offices of the local Bishops.The unity of the Society was strengthened in 1969,under the presidency of Gerard Le May who reformed the National Council of Canada.
The National Council is the highest body and the official voice of the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul in Canada. The International General Council instituted the National Council of Canada on September 27, 1971. It was incorporated under federal law on August,4, 1982 and has the status of charitable organization under the Income Tax Act.
The National Council of Canada is made up of 5 Regional Councils.
Regional Councils are made up a Central Council (5-10 Particular Councils together) and other Particular Councils with the region.
Particular Councils are made up of 4-12 conferences.
There may also be Isolated Conferences (those that have not formed a Particular Council).
Each component of each level has a full slate of officers to govern its organization.
The Rules and Statutes of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Canada, Library and Archives Canada- June 2007 (Canada)
Vincenpaul-Canada- The Magazine of The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul National Council of Canada (Canada)
Note: Most of the information provided in this document came from the book, The Rule and Statutes of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.