The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States
Just 12 years after its founding in France, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul established roots in the United States. On November 20, 1845, the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul was established in St. Louis, Missouri at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, popularly called “The Old Cathedral.”
Several people were instrumental in the Society’s growth and development in the U.S., including Father John Timon, an American Vincentian priest from Pennsylvania who brought copies of the Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul from Dublin, Ireland, to St. Louis. Timon spoke with various people about the Society’s work with the poor, including Bishop Peter Richard Kenrick. Kenrick asked Father Ambrose Heim, known for extraordinary zeal and ministry with the poor, to establish the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and be its spiritual advisor. Father Heim became known as “The Priest of the Poor.”
The Conference was formally recognized by the Society’s International Council in Paris on February 2, 1846, and would never have opened without the dedicated laypeople who accepted the initial invitation to become members and serve the poor.
With nearly 90,000 Vincentian volunteers serving their communities, today’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul works in 4,428 parish-based Conferences across the United States. Our founding activity, still practiced today, is the face-to-face Home Visit, in which Vincentians visit the homes of those they serve, to identify both immediate and longer-term needs, including emergency assistance with utilities, rent, food, and clothing.