The story of Easter is one of complete sacrifice. Jesus voluntarily gave up His body
on the cross and resurrected three days later. Now in its 170th year anniversary, St.
Vincent de Paul Louisville has been able to house, feed, and support those in need with
compassion and dignity because of the thousands of people who have sacrificed their
time, donated goods and money to see this mission move forward since its founding 1853. As we celebrate the Easter season, let us reflect on the rich history of SVDP and be reminded of its roots.
This mission began long ago because of the compassion of one man. In 1833, 19-year-old college student Frederic Ozanam and his friends from Paris, France, saw the suffering their countrymen faced—hunger, poverty and death—and it took a toll on them. They set up a Conference of Charity named after the patron St. Vincent de Paul. De Paul was a priest in France two centuries prior who organized Conferences of Charity, which were groups of volunteers who served people in need. Even as a boy, De
Paul would hand out corn to the poor on his way home from working at the mill.
This mission of charity has spanned continents and centuries. Before there were computers, cell phones or social media platforms, word of mouth traveled fast about the work that they were doing. Nearly 20 years later, Bishop Martin John Spalding of the Louisville Diocese traveled to Paris and then returned to found the first conference at the Cathedral of the Assumption in 1853. Each conference is made up of Vincentians who volunteer on the frontlines. An article in The Courier Journal in May 1868 said, “The development of the Society, from the little nucleus at Paris, has gone on at such a rapid rate that it is extended now all over the Christian world.” Today, there are 28 SVDP Conferences consisting of 1,192 Vincentians.
As you can see in The Courier-Journal newspaper clipping from Dec. 2, 1859, individuals and organizations in Louisville have trusted SVDP to help those in need since its inception and that legacy lives on to this day.
Though so many have benefited over the last 170 years, we truly believe we’re just getting started. The work continues and what we do to help those in need has never been more important. Will you continue to stand in the gap with us and help us make Ozanam’s dream a reality?