What is the Society
of St. Vincent de Paul?
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international lay
organization, Catholic in character, where all are welcomed,
who through personal contact seek to relieve those in need without
regard to wealth, position, social status or ethnic origin.
In promoting human dignity and integrity, the Society works
to redress situations which adversely affect peoples' lives
and their basic rights.
It consists of almost 900,000 Catholic lay persons, and is currently
established in 131 countries and on all 5 continents.
How old is the Society of St Vincent de Paul?
The Society was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam while he
was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Challenged to put their Christian beliefs into action, Frederic
and some of his close friends joined with their mentor, Monsieur
Bailly, and set about helping the poor and oppressed of Paris.
Their objective was to undertake practical work among the poor,
and Monsieur Bailly was elected the first President of their
"Conference of Charity". They firmly believed that
in order to address the needs of the less fortunate, one must
be prepared to visit them in their homes, see for oneself the
conditions of their lives, and then go about helping them.
The organization grew rapidly, and its members chose St. Vincent
de Paul (1581-1660), the patron saint for Christian charities
who devoted his life to helping the poor, the downtrodden and
the underprivileged, as their patron and renamed it the Society
of St. Vincent de Paul in 1835.
What is it like to be a member of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul?
When someone becomes a member of the Society, they don't just
“join” an organization and attend a few meetings.
They embark upon a new way of life. The character of true Vincentians
is reflected in their mildness of manner and the temperate tone
of their actions. Visiting many families and seeing their difficulties
throughout the year teaches people to face their own problems
When was the society introduced to Zambia?
The first conference in Zambia was established at St. Francis
Parish , Mansa, on 17th February 1951 and registered as a society
under government Gazette Notice No. 1261 of 3rd August 1971.
Does the Society have a Constitution?
The constitution of the Society is embodied in its Rule, which
guides the Presidents and members of the Conferences and Councils
in their activities as they seek to reach out to the poor and
the needy of Zambia.
How is the Society structured in Zambia?
The Society has a National Council which today oversees some
30 Central Councils and over 1, 200 Conferences.
The Conferences are the backbone of the Society, and are to
be found in all 10 Catholic Dioceses in Zambia.
What is a Conference and what does it do?
A Conference is the basic organizational unit of the Society,
and is typically associated with a church parish or student
group. Meetings are held weekly and members are assigned in
pairs to visit the poor in their homes or at institutions in
How do these visiting teams assist the poor?
Among the activities engaged in by Conference members, they
are expected to:
Know and assist the spiritually poor of the parish.
Give material assistance to the poor of the parish.
Visit the poor in their homes or institutions.
Visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.
Arrange for baptisms, marriages and funerals.
Collect and distribute religious literature.
Obtain employment, where practicable
Assist children with books, tuition, etc.
Assist the aged, blind, deaf and physically handicapped.
Arrange for medical and dental services.
Collect and distribute furniture and clothing to the poor.
Secure admission for persons in hospitals, charitable homes
Study the Catholic faith.
Study public welfare programs.
Secure free legal services for the poor.
Arrange for proper housing.
Provide glasses and medication.
Provide orthopedic appliances, artificial limbs, hearing aids,
wheel chairs etc.
How does the Society reach out to the poor and the
We reach out to the poor through the home visits made by conference
members to assess their needs and offer spiritual guidance and
material help. The Society provides residential care for the
aged and homeless poor through its Ozanam Homes, in furtherance
of the intent of its Rule, “No good work is foreign to
How is this work financed?
The work of the Society is funded through donations and pledges
from benefactors, periodic fundraising activities and the sale
of promotional items eg. T- Shirts, Greeting Cards, etc.
Catholic church communities also support the Society through
a special collection which is taken up in churches with permission
of the Parish Priest.
What are the Ozanam homes which are operated
by the Society?
These homes for the aged poor are the responsibility of the
Central Councils in which they are located.. These homes are
not Nursing Homes, so incoming residents must be ambulatory
and in fairly good health. Once admitted to the home however,
all their needs are met, both in life and in death.
How does someone become a member of the Society of
St. Vincent de Paul?
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Society may contact
the Conference President or their parish priest at the nearest
Parish, or simply contact the National Council of Zambia.