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 more readily.
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 their vicinity.
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 and institutions.
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 needy?
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 the Society”.
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.