What is SSVP?
Founded in 1833 by a group of young laymen, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is a lay Catholic organisation of women and men, volunteers, committed to offer person-to-person help to all those in need. It is funded mainly from donations.
From the outset, the Society has been under the patronage of Saint Vincent de Paul, a great saint, well-known for his works of charity. The members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul maintain the Vincentian spirit. Their vocation rests on two basic principles: continuing prayer (deepening their faith) and the meeting with Christ through the poor. These principles lead them to serve the very poorest with a deep respect, no matter where they come from, or what they believe, developing long-term and personal relationships with the people they visit.
Historically, the core work of the SSVP is the home visit: from the very beginnings of the Society, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (the leading co-founder) and his companions, went to the poor, visiting them at home in the deprived districts of Paris. This continues today, as the volunteers go to seek people in need, wherever they live: in their homes, on the street, in shelters, in hospital or in prison.
The activity of the Society is always based around love of neighbour, in the local community. Volunteers work in their own area, and respond to local needs. This means that the Society’s work around the world is extremely varied: health, agriculture, education, housing, employment support, help for elderly, disabled, isolated or excluded people, and more. Funded by donations, it also provides emergency aid and rehabilitation for victims of natural or humanitarian disasters, and finances development projects.
What is a "Conference"
The “Saint Vincent de Paul Conference” is the basic unit of the Society. It consists of a group of around ten to fifteen members. Conferences work independently, in collaboration with a Council that brings together several local, regional or national Conferences in a structure that varies from country to country. Volunteers meet regularly, once or twice a month, to pray, organize and discuss their work on behalf of the poor in their local community. Each Conference is normally linked to a Catholic parish.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and United Nations
In March 2012, the Society was accepted as a Non-Governmental Organization at ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council). This consultant status gives NGOs such as the SSVP access not just to ECOSOC but also to many of its subsidiary bodies, and the opportunity to attend international conferences, organized by the United Nations.