Who We Are & What We Do

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a lay Catholic organization with 3 primary goals: Spirituality of its members; Friendship of its members; and Service to our neighbors in need.

One of the oldest and most successful charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a Catholic lay organization of approximately 700,000 men and women throughout the world who volunteer to seek out and provide person-to-person aid to the poor and needy in 142 countries on five continents. The international office is headquartered in Paris.

The Society was founded in 1833 in Paris by Frederic Ozanam. As a university student, Ozanam and his companions were moved by the plight of the poor and were challenged to put their Catholic faith into action. They adopted St. Vincent de Paul as the Society’s patron because he cared for the poor, forgotten and downtrodden of Paris. A man of deep faith, keen intellect and enormous creativity, he has become known as the “The Apostle of Charity” and the “Father of the Poor”.

The first SVdP chapter in the United States was established in 1845 in St. Louis, Mo. Membership in the United States totals some 172,000 in 4,600 communities. The national headquarters is in St. Louis. Members of the Society are known as “Vincentians,” after St. Vincent de Paul, the patron of the organization. Vincentians are organized into “Conferences,” a group of volunteers who gather together to grow spiritually and offer person-to-person service to those in need or living in poverty.

The Society’s personalized involvement makes the work of the organization unique. This aid may take the form of intervention, consultation, or direct dollar or in-kind services. An essential precept of the Society’s work is to provide help while conscientiously maintaining the confidentiality and dignity of those who are served. The Society recognizes that it must also assume a role of advocacy for those who are defenseless or lack a voice when policies are being formulated or revised.