St. Vincent de Paul Feast Day, September 27

Born in 1581 into a farming family in Pouy, France, Vincent’s initial desire to be a priest was mainly for social advancement and monetary gain. Through a process of careful planning and being in the right place at the right time, Vincent was ordained a priest at the ripe age of nineteen by an elderly bishop who could barely see or hear.

Beginning his ordained life with less than pure motives, Vincent’s change of heart began in the middle of one of his visits to the poor tenants of a wealthy estate holder.

When Vincent was called to hear the confession of a dying man, the spiritual naiveté of the penitent shocked Vincent. The poor man knew next to nothing about his religion.  Not long after, Vincent preached a sermon on general confession from the pulpit in the village chapel of Folleville, France. In it he asked the people to take to heart the necessity of repentance.  The response overwhelmed him.  For hours the villagers stood in line to go to confession. Inside they poured out their longing for the Gospel and for good priests to minister to them. Vincent had not guessed at their hunger or their need. Based on this conversion of heart, Vincent gathered a little band of priests to his side.

In 1626 Vincent and three priests pledged to: “Aggregate and associate to ourselves and to the aforesaid work to live together as a Congregation … and to devote ourselves to the salvation of the poor country folk.”  The Congregation of the Mission was born.  As more man added to the number, the Congregation began preaching across France.  Later, he also founded the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac.

Vincent’s works are astounding when viewed as a whole. Today the “Vincentian family” has a presence on all five continents, thus fulfilling its founder’s wish, expressed in one of his last conferences: “Our vocation is to go not into one parish, nor into only one diocese, but throughout the earth. And to do what?  To inflame the hearts of men. It is not enough for me to love God if my neighbor does not love him as well.”

Today the Congregation of the Mission numbers 3,600 members, known also under the name of Lazarists, and the community of the Daughters of Charity numbers 27,000 in over 80 countries.

The charities directly descended from the first group of Ladies of Charity brought together by Vincent at Chatillon-les-Dombes, are united in an international organization with 250,000 members.  The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1835 by Frederic Ozanam, a lay society with obedience to the Church, has 875,000 members in 130 countries.  Finally, more than 500 congregations or communities, most of them congregations of women, declare themselves followers of Vincent or under his patronage.

(Adapted from material on the Worldwide Vincentian Family Website:

St. Stephen Parish was founded by the Congregation for the Mission in 1849.  Although the Vincentian Priests turned the care of the Parish to the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 2006, the devotions and the charitable work of St. Vincent de Paul continue through the work the Society of St.Vincent de Paul.