Who We Are

An International Organization

With over 720,000 volunteer members in 139 countries, the Society has remained true to its roots – providing assistance and addressing the root causes of poverty since it was founded by Frederic Ozanam in 1846.

In all parts of the world, Vincentians work in the same fashion, through small teams of 10 to 20 persons called Conferences, always directed by the laity but, whenever possible, accompanied by a priest or religious. It is in this way that the Conferences express, with regard to the Church, both their desired hierarchical independence and their deep filial attachment.

The Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul are linked together through a vast network that directs the Councils at the regional level (Diocesan and Local Councils), country level (National Councils) and at the global level (International General Council). The fundamental principle of the entire organization is subsidiary: each hierarchical level has only the competencies that those on the lower level cannot assume. This greatly fosters a spirit of initiative at the levels closest to the needs, especially since the functioning is entirely democratic: Conference presidents are elected by their team members and the presidents in turn elect the members of the Council upon who they depend. In the same way, all Council members are elected by the representatives in the level directly below, all the way to the General Council.

In every diocese, the Conferences work in direct collaboration with the Church at the parish and various institutional levels. More especially throughout the world, close ties unite the Saint Vincent de Paul Conferences with other Vincentian Family organizations, notably the Daughters of Charity, the Congregation of the Mission and the Confraternity of Charity (AIC), as well as the Brothers of Saint Vincent de Paul. Many activities are accomplished in this close collaboration, and in a harmony which is most often complementary.

Revised Dec 6, 2013