SVdP founder turns 200

July 16, 2013

HOUSTON — This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam. 

Ozanam’s time as a college student in Paris, France, was immersed in the Industrial Revolution. While there was tremendous economic growth during this period, the divisions between the rich and the poor became more and more obvious. 

The rich were getting richer and the poor population was rapidly increasing. Their living conditions were affected by low wages, lack of basic necessities and high levels of violence and disease; not unlike current conditions of some societies throughout the world. 

It was in this environment that Ozanam was challenged by his peers on how he was putting his faith in action. “What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you?” they asked. Inspired by this, he and six friends formed what was soon known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), laying the foundation for a systematic and organized approach to helping the less fortunate.

They engaged in practical works of charity by giving support to, and drawing attention to, the needs of the poor. 

The group began visiting Paris tenements and offering assistance as best they could. They tended to those living in dire poverty, bringing with them food, clothing and other comforts. 

Ozanam offered whatever service he could. He respected the poor, believing that each man, woman and child was precious. Serving the poor taught him something about God that he could not have learned elsewhere.

The society spread to the United States in 1845. In 1871, SVdP of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston began the work started by Ozanam, and continues today. It currently has 60 conferences spread throughout the 10-county area of the Archdiocese. 

To this day, members of SVdP still visit those in need in their homes. Its mission challenges members to grow in their faith through service to others. It provides help to those in need in the community regardless of race, religion, age or status. 

The ultimate goal is to meet emergency or basic needs, keep families together by preventing homelessness and promote self-sufficiency. 

In the spirit of their founder, SVdP will host the Friends of the Poor® Walk on Sept. 28 at Lansdale Park, 8201 Roos Rd. in Houston. This event is designed to help raise awareness of the challenges faced by the nation’s poor and to raise funds to be used in direct service to the poor. 

All funds raised locally will be used locally. To learn more about SVdP, how you can live your faith by service to others, to volunteer or donate, or to sign up for the Friends of the Poor Walk, visit