Founded in Paris by Frederic Ozanam and a few of his friends who felt the need to affirm their faith by visiting the poor and offering material and spiritual help to them, the pioneers saw in Saint Vincent de Paul a model of the charity of Christ.
With all the help that they had received from revered Emmanuel Bailly, and from Sister Rosalie, the first Vincentians were strong in their religious convictions. They had become aware of the problems of poverty that raged in Paris. Following their example, other conferences spread rapidly throughout France and into other countries of Europe.
One of the consequences of the creation of the first Conference in Paris was to be the establishment of the Society in Canada due to the efforts of Doctor Joseph Painchaud.
In 1846, returning from brilliant success in his studies in Paris, Doctor Painchaud founded the first Conference in Quebec City. At the suggestion of Bishop Ignace Bourget, a first Conference was founded in Montreal in 1848. The good news was carried to Toronto by Georges Manly Muir in 1850, and so on.
At the end of 2001, there were more than 980 conferences and councils in Canada, with more than 10,500 members whose principal activity was to visit and bring help to more than 313,000 people, bringing them material help and comfort, and spiritual and moral support.
In 2003, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul continues to exercise its mission in Canada and it can be found in all regions from coast to coast, but particularly in Quebec and Ontario, and is in constant expansion in the Maritimes and in the western provinces and the territories of the north.
The hundreds of volunteer workers must also be counted – those who give of their time in so many of the Society’s works, where the poor may obtain the clothing and other daily essentials they require, and where even their small monetary contributions help in the works of the Society.
When Ozanam died, there were 15,000 Vincentians. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is now present in 133 countries, and regroups more than 48,000 conferences and 600,000 active members.
This expansion of the Society throughout the world is the most beautiful monument that could ever be erected to the memory of our founders, indeed to the memory of all our predecessors.
It is very hard to evaluate the harvest from that first sowing of seeds more than 170 years ago. The results of that sowing are still felt today. New conferences are being born in countries which are now emerging from the oppression to which they were submitted for so many years.
Western Canada has truly opened up and has more than 50 Conferences and 6 Councils with 2 new conferences on the shores of the Arctic Ocean our most northern conferences and very active serving the poor. Expansion is a huge project for the Western Regional as there is so much to conquer in the three provinces and two territories. We are excited as our family grows one conference at a time. Frederic’s dream, to cover the world with charity and with loving servants to bring Christ to the poor through action and serve Christ who is in the poor.
Ozanam was the pioneer of a “network of charity” that spread all around the world.