SVDP Memphis

Q. When was the society first started in the US?

A. While historians are not certain about some details, there is no doubt that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was established in St. Louis, Missouri at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, popularly called "The Old Cathedral," in 1845. Father John Timon, CM, an American Vincentian priest from Pennsylvania, and later Bishop of Buffalo, New York, was the one who brought copies of the Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul back from Dublin, Ireland, to St. Louis. Timon talked to various people about the Society and its wonderful work with the poor.

Bishop Peter Richard Kenrick, successor of the first Bishop of St. Louis, Joseph Rosati, CM, asked Father Ambrose Heim to establish the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and be its Spiritual Advisor. Father Heim was known by all for his extraordinary zeal and ministry with the poor. He became known as "The Priest of the Poor."

The first meeting of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States was held on November 20, 1845, only twelve years after its foundation in Paris. Nineteen of the most prominent Catholic layment of St. Louis attended. Dr. Moses Linton was elected President, Bryan Mullanphy, Vice President, Dennis Galvin, Second Vice President, James Maguire Jr., Secretary, Patrick Ryder, Treasurer, and Fr. Ambrose Heim, Spiritual Advisor. The Conference was aggregated (formally recognized) by the Society's International Council in Paris on February 2, 1846.

 

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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.