Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Vincent de Paul (c. 1580–1660)

Saint Vincent de Paul (c. 1580–1660)

Patron saint of charities

Feast day: September 27

Vincent de Paul made a decision to serve the poor that changed his life and changed the world. Born in France in 1581 into a peasant family, he progressed rapidly in school and was ordained a priest at the age of 19. By 1613 he became an influential tutor for the rich and powerful Gondi family. During this time he also served as a village pastor. In ministering to the people of his parish, he became increasingly aware of the needs of the many poor and sick. He made a commitment to respond.

Throughout many villages, Saint Vincent de Paul formed organized groups dedicated to helping those in need. His work also included ministering to prisoners and changing miserable prison conditions. He founded the religious community known as the Vincentians to serve the poor, and along with Saint Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity for the same purpose.

He established orphanages and opportunities for education and employment. He organized drives to fund his efforts, inspiring some to sell their jewels. Inspired by Saint Vincent de Paul’s work, Frederic Ozanam founded the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in 1833 as an association of laypeople dedicated to serving the poor in their communities.

Today there are more than 1,000 chapters of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society throughout the United States and almost a million members worldwide. Saint Vincent de Paul shows us the impact of one person’s decision to make a preferential option for the poor. (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Mary’s Press]) 

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