The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) is an international voluntary membership organisation which began in Paris in 1833 when a young law student at the Sorbonne, Frédéric Ozanam, was challenged during a debate to demonstrate what he and his fellow Catholic students were personally doing to help the poor in Paris. Ozanam’s reaction was immediate.
Within weeks, Ozanam, at 20 years of age, along with six of his peers formed the first ‘Conference of Charity’ and adopting St Vincent de Paul as their patron. The Society has since spread throughout the world, thus fulfilling the wish of its founder ‘I would like to embrace the world in a network of Charity’.
SVP Ireland established in 1844, is part of the international Society which is represented in over 140 countries: having 700,000 members and 1.5m volunteers: 51,000 Conferences: helping 30 million poor throughout the world.
Since its foundation in Ireland it has helped people in need through a Famine, a Civil War, a War of Independence, two World Wars and several economic recessions. We are one of Ireland’s best known and most widely supported organisations of social concern and action with over 11,500 volunteers active in every county in Ireland.
We respect the dignity of those who contact us, and our focus is on a practical approach to dealing with poverty, alleviating its effects on individuals and families through working primarily in person-to-person contact by a unique system of family visitation and seeking to achieve social justice and equality of opportunity for all citizens by maintaining their dignity while assisting them towards long-term self-sufficiency, in a relationship of friendship, trust and confidentiality.
Today, volunteer members of SVP are people from all walks of life who want to make a difference to the lives of people in need.
“The question which is agitating the world today is a social one. It is a struggle between those who have nothing and those who have too much. It is a violent clash of opulence and poverty, which is shaking the ground under our feet. Our duty as Christians is to throw ourselves between these two camps in order to accomplish by love what justice alone cannot do”.
Those words, spoken in 1834 by the Founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Frédéric Ozanam, remain just as relevant in today’s world.