International Confederation of the Society of St Vincent de Paul
The SSVP was founded in Paris as a result of a Conference on Law and History organised 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 Frédéric 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, practising 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. The International Confederation of the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul has consultative status with UNESCO as an NGO.
The SSVP charism is expressed and authenticated among the poor and the marginalised, 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 Frédéric Ozanam. The association takes part in the Church’s charitable work, emphasising 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-fulfilment: It contributes to the new evangelisation by bearing witness to Christ through living charity on behalf of the lowliest, the voiceless, the unloved.
The International Confederation of the Society of Saint Vincent De Paul has a Rule, which sets out its vocation, organisation and mission. The official management bodies of the Association, whose grassroots 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 International Office, appointed by the President General and composed of the General Vice-President, the Secretary General, the Treasurer General, several joint General Vice-Presidents, the Spiritual Advisor, the International Coordinator for Youth, and other permanent advisors; the Permanent Section, comprising the International Office, territorial vice-presidents and mission delegates; the International Executive Committee represents the General Assembly at its meetings and is composed of a certain number of member countries and the International Office; the International Coordination Committee, composed of all the members with international responsibility in the Society.
SSVP has a membership of some 50,000 Conferences, comprising on average 15-20 members each, and is present in 141 countries and territories.
SSVP is committed to supporting training, education and development projects, and manages medical facilities, social service facilities and homes/hostels; institutes for children; centres for young people; schools; vocational training centres; hospices; centres 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; programmes for disadvantaged families.
Confédération Internationale de la Société de Saint Vincent de Paul
65, rue de la Glacière - 75013 Paris - France