Society of St. Vincent de Paul

  • Religion
  • 1845

Throughout much of America’s early history, Catholic philanthropy was characterized by its decentralization. Nearly all giving originated in and was disbursed by individual parishes, often through religious orders supported by the congregation. One of the first efforts to provide services on a wider level than the parish began when the Society of St. Vincent de Paul was imported to St. Louis, Missouri, to provide relief for the poor, 12 years after it had been founded in Paris. The group has provided many charitable services during its history, from running homeless shelters to prison ministry to providing emergency aid after disasters. The emphasis has always been on person-to-person care, modeled on the interactions of Christ with his followers. As one of the organization’s later presidents put it, “the Society has two aims: to do a great deal of spiritual good to its members through the exercise of charity, and to do a little spiritual good to a few poor families in the name of Jesus.”