On Monday, September 27, we celebrate the Feastday of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentian priests, religious, and lay apostolates. He is the patron of all charitable organizations, especially the Vincentian Collaborative System entities.
Here is a summary of his life and works:
Vincent de Paul was born to a peasant family in Gascony, France. Though he later achieved fame for his dedication to the poor, his early life was spent in a determined struggle to escape his humble roots. For this goal, he chose a career in the priesthood. After ordination, his charm and social skills gained him entry into the highest levels of society. A turning point came in midlife, when he was summoned to hear the confession of a dying peasant. He was struck as never before by the seriousness of his vocation and determined afterward that his priesthood would be dedicated to service to the poor.
Eventually, he established a mission congregation of priests—later known as the Vincentians. With St. Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor and sick.
Of their unenclosed congregation, he wrote: “Their convent is the sickroom, their chapel the parish church, their cloister the streets of the city.”
There were few charitable projects in which Vincent was not engaged. He founded hospitals and orphanages, as well as homes for the humane care of the mentally infirm. He ministered to prisoners and galley slaves and became, already in his lifetime, something of a legend. The rich and powerful vied to endow his projects, while the poor accepted him as one of their own. His spirituality was based on the encounter with Christ in the needs of one’s neighbors.
As he instructed his priests and daughters, “The poor are your masters, and you are their servants.”
He died on September 27, 1660, at the age of 80, and was canonized in 1737.
Source: “Give Us This Day” September 2021
With St. Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity to serve the poor and sick. Vincent de Paul did not call them“sisters,” because at the time sisters were in cloistered convents. Thus, he called them “daughters.”
These congregations of women serving the poor spread throughout France, and eventually other parts of Europe, and around the world. Eventually women who served the Church were all called “sister.”
One of Vincent’s congregations eventually ended up in Romania. It was from this group that five sisters answered the call to come to Braddock, PA, in 1902. These sisters were called Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Because people were confusing them with the Sisters of Charity in Greensburg (founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton), they changed their name to Vincentian Sisters of Charity. This group of sisters started by teaching in several schools, but eventually began working in health care and social services.
In 1924, in collaboration with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they built and staffed the Vincentian Home, which will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary. Thus began the long history of service to others in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul in the Pittsburgh area. This service led to the merger of several entities into Vincentian Collaborative System to better serve the elderly and young children.