SVDP Memphis

Q. How did the society get started?

A. Frédéric Ozanam left his home in Lyon, France, in the autumn of 1831, for Paris. He registered in the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris.

Frédéric collaborated with Mr. Emmanuel Bailly, editor of the Tribune Catholique, in reviving a student organization which had been suspended during the revolutionary activity of July 1830. They called their new association "The Conference of History." The group met on Saturdays to discuss various topics, everything but polititcs.

At one of their meetings, a student challenged Frédéric and the practicing Catholics. He admitted that the Catholic Church had done much good work in the past, but "what do you do now?"

Frédéric called for a meeting of five of his friends; they agreed to meet at Mr. Bailly's office. The date was April 23, 1833, Frédéric's twentieth birthday. Inspired by their words, Frédéric decided to found the "Conference of Charity" to assist the poor. Emmanuel Bailly, the married layman, was chosen by the six students as their first President. In a short time, they changed their name to The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in honor of their patron.

 

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The Society

The primary focus of The Society since 1865 has been the assistance of individuals that call for help. That help may include assistance with utility bills, food baskets, rent or mortgage assistance.  It could also include help paying medical bills and whatever else the person may need to get back on their feet.

In Brief

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul first arrived in Memphis in 1865. The first conference (or group of volunteers) gathered at St. Peter and Paul parish in downtown Memphis. Since then the Society has grown to ten conferences, with hundreds of Vincentians, as the members are called. That number does not include the scores of volunteers that work at the food mission.