VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the description of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which appears in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
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Official name: Society of St. Vincent de Paul
History: The SSVP was founded in Paris as a result of a conference on law and history organized by the journalist Emmanuel Bailly for university undergraduates at a time when Catholic student welfare associations were being closed down.
The intellectual purpose of these meetings did not, however, meet with the spiritual aspirations and the desire for social commitment felt by a group of students led by Frederic Ozanam (beatified in 1997).
Convinced of the need to put words into practice in order to demonstrate the vitality of their faith, they decided to change them into conferences of charity, which were to be essentially lay in character, obedient to the authority of the Church, designed to sanctify their members and the poor people they served.
They were to be marked by simplicity, friendship and fellowship in relations between the members, with decisions taken on a collegial basis, practicing charity not as an individual activity but through group solidarity.
In 1835, after drawing up their first rule, the conferences of charity took the name of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, after the saint chosen as their patron, and in 1845, they obtained Holy See recognition in a brief issued by Gregory XVI.
As an international catholic organization, SSVP is a member of the Conference of International Catholic Organizations, and as an NGO it has consultative status with UNESCO.
Identity: The SSVP charism is expressed and authenticated among the poor and the marginalized, and in the contribution it makes to the advancement of our suffering brethren in the light of the Gospel message and the twin heritage of St. Vincent de Paul and Frederic Ozanam.
The association takes part in the Church’s charitable work, emphasizing a personal relationship when serving the neediest people. It encourages the laity’s sense of responsibility, encouraging cooperation between all the members of the ecclesial community. It draws its inspiration from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the social encyclicals, incorporated into different countries, by performing actions for the benefit of the poor in respect for their traditions and cultures.
In a world in which poverty not only means “not possessing” but also “not existing,” it strives to make the poor the protagonists of their own human and spiritual self-fulfillment. It contributes to the new evangelization by bearing witness to Christ through living charity on behalf of the lowliest, the voiceless, the unloved.
Organization: SSVP has a rule, which sets out its vocation, organization and mission. The official management bodies of the association, whose grass roots groups have retained the original name of “conferences,” are the general council, made up of the president general and the presidents of the national councils which meets in an international general assembly every six years; the regional or interregional councils; the executive committee appointed by the president general, and made up of the secretary general, the treasurer general, the general vice president and the territorial vice presidents; the permanent section, comprising the executive committee and the mission delegates; and the international coordination committee.
Membership: SSVP has a membership of some 47,000 conferences, comprising on average 15-20 members each, and is present in 130 countries.
Works: SSVP is committed to supporting training, education and development projects, and manages medical facilities, social service facilities and homes/hostels; institutes for children; centers for young people; schools; vocational training centers; hospices; centers for unmarried mothers or women in difficulty, and for the rehabilitation of former inmates; institutes for the physically and mentally disabled; helping victims of violence, disasters and war; caring for and supporting the terminally ill, alcoholics and drug-dependents; programs for disadvantaged families.
Publications: Vincenpaul, a quarterly newsletter.
Web site: http://www.ozanet.org
Société de Saint Vincent de Paul
5, rue du Pre-aux-Clercs – 75007 Paris – France
Tel. [+33]1.53458753 – Fax 1.42617256
© Copyright 2006 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana [adapted]