Inspirations for the Society

St Vincent de Paul


St. Vincent de Paul was born in in the village of Pouy near Dax at the foot of the Pyrenees. The de Paul family was a poor farming family, but by no means destitute.


Vincent's father recognised Vincent's talents and enrolled him in the boarding school at Dax with the Franciscans.His proficiency in Latin won him admission to Toulouse University.


In September he was ordained a priest at the age of nineteen.

Exalted positions such as chaplain to the Queen's court and tutor to the wealthy de Gondi family were not fulfilling to him. The profit of an ecclesiastical career was abandoned for a parish and for work with the marginalised and forgotten.

It was while visiting the galley slaves in prison that Vincent got the idea of organising a mission for those condemned to the oars. He started to go from village to village preaching and giving missions.


Vincent instituted an order of priests, the Congregation of the Mission, "to go all over the earth to inflame people's hearts to do what the Son of God did" sharing Jesus' good news in the villages through preaching and service. Missionaries came to join Vincent from all over Europe.

The order is known today as the Vincentian Fathers.


With Louise de Marillac, he co-founded the Daughters of Charity.

Louise was a wealthy widow who became a close friend and confidante of Vincent de Paul.

During Louise's marriage, and especially after the death of her husband, Louise found herself with spare time which she dedicated to helping abandoned children on the streets. She graduated to visiting the sick men of the chain gangs in their prison hospice and started a house nearby where a number of women cooked food for those who visited the prisoners daily to talk with them.

Throughout the country, centres staffed by wives of people in the village were set up to serve the poor. Louise pushed for every village to have its own clinic, school, nurse and teacher. The women who came to do these jobs made up the Daughters of Charity. It was a revolutionary order of sisters who did not live in convents to work on the streets and in the homes of the poor.

Louise worked with untiring devotion fostering in her sisters respect for the individual, friendliness, devotion, no condescension, but just unlimited patience.


As Vincent neared his eightieth year, his health deteriorated and he endured much suffering. He was finally confined to bed.

Louise de Marillac died in 1660, just six months before Vincent. He insisted on giving her eulogy from his own bed of terminal sickness.

Vincent de Paul died on 27 September 1660, which is now his feast day.


Vincent de Paul was canonised as a saint on the 16th June 1737 by Pope Clement XII.


Louise de Marillac was beatified on the 9th May 1920 and canonised on the 11th March 1934.