St. Vincent de Paul is the largest Catholic lay organization in the United States and the world. The founder of St. Vincent de Paul Society was Frederic Ozanam. Fredric was a husband and father, a college professor, and servant of the poor. He founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as a young student with others of the Sorbonne in Paris. Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity, is considered the mentor of Frederick and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, as she taught the first members the art of helping the poor and the sick. Fredric's writings on social justice anticipated the first social encyclical of our modern times, Rerum Novarum.
St. Vincent de Paul in the United States
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. Fr. John Timon, CM, an American Vincentian priest from Pennsylvania, and later bishop of Buffalo, New York, was the one who brought copies or 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 it's 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 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 founding in Paris. Nineteen of the most prominent Catholic laymen 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 Father Ambrose Heim, Spiritual Advisor. The Conference was aggregated(formally recognized) by the Society's International Council in Paris on February 2, 1846.
Sister Rosalie Rendue
Sister Rosalie Rendu, closely associated with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, entered the Motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity at the age of 17. She took vows to serve God and the poor, and spent over 50 years living out those vows. She opened a free clinic, a pharmacy, a school, an orphanage, a childcare center, a home for the elderly and a youth club for young workers. She became known as the "good mother to all". and helped Fredric Ozanam and his friends do good works, which is how the St. Vincent de Paul Society started.
As well as assisting the poor in the streets and their homes, Sister Rosalie showed great courage and leadership during the bloody uprisings that took place in France in 1830 and 1848. During the battles, Sister Rosalie would climb up on the barricades - risking her life - to help wounded soldiers, regardless of which side they were fighting on.