06 The Founding Members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) - Dominic Pinto

posted Sep 19, 2018, 9:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 19, 2018, 9:05 AM ]
In the early 19th century, there was social and political unrest in Paris. Religion was on the decline, and atheism was gaining ground. Many agricultural workers were leaving their fields in search of work in the large cities where most found only unemployment, minimal salaries, or factories closed due to political conflict. A cholera epidemic broke out. Many people were dying, and in the slums that had formed around the outskirts of the city, many lived without resources, some in total destitution. Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853), then a young student, who came from an outstandingly religious family, had to pass through the poorest neighbourhoods in order to attend his courses at the University. He became profoundly affected by the despair of families decimated by the epidemic. Ozanam and some friends – who together took part in History Conferences where they debated world events – decided to get together as Christians; not to talk, but to act: to set up a Conference of Charity.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul was formed on April 23, 1833, on the birthday of Frederic Ozanam. The first meeting took place in the office of the La Tribune Catholique newspaper, of which Emmanuel Bailly (42) was the chief editor. Frederic Ozanam (aged 20) gathered around five students between 20 to 23 years of age. They were Francois Lallier (20), Jules Devaux (22), Felix Clave (22), Augustine le Taillandier (22) and Paul Lamache (23).

The new group began to function along with Emmanuel Bailly as its first President, under the patronage of St Vincent de Paul, whose spirit and example inspired them. Thus, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul came into existence. The zeal, commitment and dedication of these seven founder members is noteworthy.