Mission & History

One of the oldest charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (www.svdpusa.org) is a Catholic lay organization of more than 690,000 men and women throughout the world who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually and offer person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 142 countries on five continents.

With the U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., membership in the United States totals more than 146,000 in 4,600 communities. Programs include home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine. SVdP serves more than 14 million people in need each year, performs more than 644,000 visits to people in their homes, and delivers more than 7 million service hours to those in need

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Fort Wayne empowers people, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or faith, to achieve stability and self-sufficiency by offering financial, material, educational, and spiritual support and by collaborating with others to develop and deliver programs and services that help those in need.

We are part of an international organization and have operated in Fort Wayne since 1944. The Goal of The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Fort Wayne is to eliminate poverty by offering hope as well as help to all through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Our Founders

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul originated in Paris, France, in 1833. Frédéric Ozanam, a young Sorbonne student, met regularly with his fellow Catholic students to discuss the issues of the day. At one of their public meetings, a challenger admitted that the Catholic Church, at one time, had been a great source of good, but asked, “What is your Church doing now?… Show us your works and we will believe you.” Unable to respond, Frédéric and his friends conceded.

Shortly afterward, Frédéric drew six friends together and inspired them to create the Conference of Charity, with the purpose of serving the poor of Paris. Frédéric and his friends decided that no act of charity would be foreign to their organization. For people in need, the Conference members provided food, clothing, shelter and financial and spiritual assistance. They also established tutoring programs and libraries.

Under the guidance of Sr. Rosalie Rendu, Frédéric impressed upon the Conference members the need and importance of offering the kindness, respect and compassion of God to the people they visited. In his view, this was as important as the food or clothing they brought with them.

Frédéric chose the 17th-century priest St. Vincent de Paul, known as the Apostle of Charity, as patron of the Conference. Subsequently, the Conference of Charity was renamed the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

 Ozanam’s faith was very important to him and it guided him throughout his life. He was also a very humble and compassionate man. These traits enabled him to successfully assist many people in need and laid the foundation for the Society to spread throughout the world. As the Society grew, its members established volunteer groups in parishes. These groups became known as Conferences. The Society started in the United States in 1845 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1944, the first Conference in Fort Wayne was formed.