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Our Story

The Society celebrated 100 years of service on Vancouver Island in 2016, and to recognize that a video was created about us. 

Click Here to watch our Story

Founder: Frederic Ozanam

Frederic Ozanam was born on April 23, 1813 in Milan. In 1815 the Ozanam family moved to Lyon where the father had secured a position in the Hotel-Dieu hospital. As a twenty-year-old university student, Ozanam was profoundly Christian and pursued his studies assiduously, attending all the lectures of the history conference where literature and philosophy were given equal appreciation.

In 1822, Frederic began his classical studies at the Sorbonne. He married and was soon established both as a family man and a successful professor at the Sorbonne. In Paris he was haunted by the misery of the poor, and his dream was to see harmony among social classes. He campaigned for justice and charity. His faith enabled him to see Christ in the poor, and in the evening of his life, he repeated very clearly: "Our aim is to keep the faith and to spread it among others by means of charity." In 1833, anxious to respond to the attacks formulated by his colleagues - followers of Saint-Simon - Ozanam and some of his friends founded the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Ozanam was encouraged by the revered Joseph Emmanuel Bailly de Surcy, founder and former director of the "Societe des Bonnes Etudes" (society for good studies). Ozanam made a pact with his friends to follow their lead, but "to help the poor materially, and after a certain time, perhaps to help them to return to the practice of religion." The first meeting of the new Society was held April 23, 1833.

The Rule

By the end of 1835 there were two hundred and fifty members in the Society. It seemed about time to provide the Society with the rules of a regular organization. The revered Mr Bailly at the same time, determined to give the Society a written rule. He assigned Mr Lallier to draft a rule, reserving for himself some preliminary reflections. This rule, amended at different periods, has been and is still today the guide for the Society. The latest revisions were made in 1968. The preamble to the Rule, presented by Pierre Chouard, then president-general of the Society, defines again the fundamental principles of the Society. "The Rule, in essence, is to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in one's own milieu."

It is highly recommended that each member of the Society make it his or her duty not only to read the Rule and its commentaries but to study it and be inspired by it.

The Logo

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) logo was adopted by the International Council General of Saint Vincent de Paul for use in every country in the world. 

The logo has the following meaning:

  • The fish is the symbol of Christianity and, in this case, represents the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
  • The eye of the fish is the vigilant eye of God seeking to help the poor in our midst
  • The crossing at the tail or the tie-knot represents unity and oneness among members and also the union with the poor
  • The circle bounding the logo signifies the global or worldwide stature of the SSVP, an international Society
  • The words "serviens in spe" mean to serve in hope, the hope that comes from Our Lord Jesus Christ

First Female Collaborator

From the very beginning, the members decided on visiting the poor in their homes. However, this could not have been done without close collaboration with the Daughters of Charity, particularly that of Sister Rosalie Rendu, who initiated them into the care of the poor by actual practice.

This woman wielded a deep influence on the nascent Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and no one was better fitted to help them in the apprenticeship of charity. For two years Sister Rosalie directed the young Vincentians to the homes of needy people, showering them all the time with good advice and wise suggestions.

When it came to forming a second Conference (as the group called itself), it was very difficult for them to think about breaking the bonds of friendship that had grown among them; but the unassuming Sister of Charity was able to convince them that a second Conference must be formed. It became the starting point for the expansion of the Society.

The Society in Canada

The first Conference of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Canada was founded by Doctor Joseph Painchaud in 1846, in Quebec city. During this period in Quebec, the members did not have far to look for needs that must be met. The most serious were the epidemics that broke out in the city from the waves of immigrants. To this were added the frequent economic depressions which called for the establishment of savings banks or banking co-ops to encourage the poor to save money. Two such were founded at that time.

In 1848, a few days after the foundation of the Society in Montreal, the members visited a prison and immediately afterwards prepared a report for the government on reforms that they considered should be introduced into the management of the prison. Throughout its history, the Society has always been able to adapt to new needs and has developed programs, either permanent or temporary, to assist families; to aid the poor; to help drifters and derelicts, the homeless, the elderly, and the orphans.

Expansion

Founded in Paris by Frederic Ozanam and a few of his friends who felt the need to affirm their faith by visiting the poor and offering material and spiritual help to them, the pioneers saw in Saint Vincent de Paul a model of the charity of Christ. With all the help that they had received from Revered Emmanuel Bailly and from Sister Rosalie, the first Vincentians were strong in their religious convictions. They had become aware of the problems of poverty that raged in Paris. Following their example, other conferences spread rapidly throughout France and into other countries of Europe. One of the results of the creation of the first Conference in Paris was the establishment of the Society in Canada, due to the efforts of Doctor Joseph Painchaud.

In 1846, returning from brilliant success in his studies in Paris, Doctor Painchaud founded the first Conference in Quebec City. At the suggestion of Bishop Ignace Bourget, a first Conference was founded in Montreal in 1848. The good news was carried to Toronto by Georges Manly Muir in 1850, and so on. At the end of 2001, there were more than 980 conferences and councils in Canada, with more than 10,500 members whose principal activity was to visit and bring help to more than 313,000 people, by bringing them material help and comfort, and spiritual and moral support. In 2007, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul continued to exercise its mission in Canada and it can be found in all regions from coast to coast, but particularly in Quebec and Ontario, and is in constant expansion in the Maritimes and in the western provinces. The hundreds of volunteer workers must also be counted - those who give of their time in so many of the Society's stores and outlets, where the poor may obtain the clothing and other daily essentials they require, and where even their small monetary contributions help in the works of the Society. When Ozanam died, there were 15,000 Vincentians. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul is now present in 131 countries, and regroups more than 47,400 conferences and 590,000 active members.

This expansion of the Society throughout the world is the most beautiful monument that could ever be erected to the memory of our founders, indeed to the memory of all our predecessors. It is very hard to evaluate the harvest from that first sowing of seeds 170 years ago. The results of that sowing are still felt today. New conferences are being born in countries which are now emerging from the oppression to which they were submitted for so many years. Ozanam was the pioneer of a "network of charity" that spread all around the world.

Our Local Story

1914

  • Father Leterne begins to organize the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul at Saint Andrew's Cathedral

1915

  • Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Saint Andrew’s Conference formed on November 29th
  • Constable Harry J. O'Leary installed as first President

1916

  • Saint Andrew's Conference was aggregated on December 4th

1926

  • H.E. Bridges installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1930

  • Harry J. O'Leary was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1936

  • The Victoria Council of Social Agencies invites the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul to meet with them.
  • W.T. Gagnon was installed as Victoria Particular Council Presdient

1937

  • the Society becomes a member of the Victoria Community Chest (now United Way)

1938

  • Miss Harriet O'Brien was appointed to take charge of the Ladies'Auxillary of Saint Vincent de Paul

1943

  • J.D. Kissinger was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1945

  • The Saanich Peninsula Conference was established in Sidney, BC
  • Bishop Cody established Conferences throughout the Diocese as one of the main services the Catholic Church would provide under a Catholic Action Committee

1947

  • F.X. O'Neil was installed as Victoria Council President

1949

  • M.J. Haley was installed as Victoria Council President

1951

  • F.J. Griffin was installed as Victoria Council President

1953

  • The Society legally incorporated under the Society Act on October 5
  • The first Society Thrift Store was established at 728 Johnson Street

1955

  • A. Ritz installed was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1957

  • The Society decides to assist Hungarian Refugees

1959

  • G.H. O'Neil was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1961

  • A.J. Kelpin was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1963

  • R.J. Caldwell was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1964

  • The Saint Joseph the Worker Conference formed
  • The Thrift store relocates to 560 Johnson Street
  • Carl P. Sonders was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1967

  • The Sacred Heart Conference formed July 7
  • The Society “Welfare Office” was established
  • Jimmy Comerford was installed as the "Social Service Interviewer"
  • Gerry F. Cox was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1968

  • The Queen of Peace Conference was formed May 1
  • Jimmy Comerford develops the “Ozanam Food Pack”
  • Frank Rushton was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President

1969

  • “Welfare Office” was renamed the Social Concern Office
  • Society acquires and opens St. Vincent’s Lodge at 1029 North Park Street to serve transient population with accommodation and wholesome food in a welcoming environment

1973

  • St. Vincent’s Lodge partners with Project Hope to provide half-way services to rehabilitated inmates of the local penal institution

1974

  • Art Paalvast was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1975

  • The Society establishes a distribution centre at 4349 West Saanich Road
  • The Society Thrift Store moves to 840 View Street

1978

  • The Sacred Heart Conference was aggregated on January 23

1979

  • Frank Rushton was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1980

  • The Society purchased the land and buildings at 4349 West Saanich Road from the Diocese of Victoria
  • The Victoria Particular Council was instituted by the Council-General on November 17
  • The Frederic Ozanam Conference was aggregated on November 17
  • The Canadian Biker Magazine holds first “Victoria Biker’s Toy Run” to assist the Society’s Christmas Giving Program

1982

  • The Achievement Program was started for people with disabilities
  • Frederic Ozanam Centre established at 4349 West Saanich Road to assist persons with developmental disabilities
  • The second Society Thrift Store opens in Langford at Westbrook Shopping Centre
  • The Joseph Painchaud Conference was aggregated on October 25th, 1982

1983

  • St. Patrick’s Conference formed in January
  • Holy Cross Conference formed
  • Aileen Larsen was installed as the first female Victoria Council President

1984

  • Our Lady of the Rosary Conference formed

1987

  • The third Society Thrift Store opens in Sidney, BC
  • The Learn to Work Program was established

1990

  • The Saint Joseph the Worker Conference was aggregated on September 24th

1991

  • Frank Carriere was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President
  • The Society purchases building at 2784 Claude Road in Langford and Society Thrift Store relocates

1992

  • Donna Marasco was appointed as the Society first Executive Director
  • Society partners with Knights of Columbus to form the Colvin Society to provide affordable housing
  • The Community Placement Program starts in May
  • The first issue fo the Society Newsletter was introduced in November
  • Negotiations began for the purchase of 831-833 Yates Street (ABC Electric)
  • The Frederic Ozanam Centre purhcases a new van

1993

  • The fourth Society Thrift Store opens in Sooke, BC on April 1
  • The Society receives an estate donation of $325,000 and the purchase of 831-833 Yates Street is finalized
  • The mortgage of 2784 Claude Road (Langford Thrift Store) is paid off

1994

  • A Building purchased at 6750 West Coast Road in Sooke. Thrift Store moves to new location and opens May 1
  • Saint Patricks Conference is aggregated on May 30
  • Our Lady of Rosary Conference is aggregated on September 12
  • The Society establishes five goals:
    • To provide necessities of life to persons in emergency situations
    • To work towards solutions to achieve lasting improvement in the quality of life for those we serve while meeting changing community needs
    • To maintain and increase Society membership in order to provide the needed service offered by the Society
    • To mainain and expand the Society's financial base to increase effectiveness and scope of the services being provided
    • To provide effective and efficient Human Resources to ensure the Society's Mission is met

1995

  • A Committee is formed in April to consider future of yates Street property to house Thrift Store, Social Concern office and Housing
  • Social Concern Office relocates to 840 View Street in April
  • Christ the King Conference formed in Comox, BC
  • Henny Voorsluys was installed as Victoria Particular Council President

1996

  • Christ the King Conference aggregated on May 13
  • The Ozanam Centre Day Program restructed due to changes in employment standards
  • A computer database was installed in the Social Concern Office
  • The Langford and Sooke thrift stores underwent renovations

1997

  • Frederic Ozanam Conference formed in Nanaimo, BC. Name changed to Nanaimo Frederic Ozanam Conference. Meetings took place at St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church
  • Fifth Society Thrift Store established in Courtenay, BC at 764 Cumberland Road
  • The first Society administrative assistant appointed

1998

  • Society adopts new slogan “Building a Better Future - By Caring Today”
  • The concept artwork for the new Saint Vincent de Paul Centre on Yates street was unveiled
  • A strategic plan for operations was completed
  • the Social Concern office adopted a "financial self-sufficiency" model to assist long-term families to reduce or no longer require the emergency services provided
  • The Frederic Ozanam Centre increases community involvement of participants

1999

  • Frederic Ozanam Conference in Nanaimo renamed St. Peter’s Conference
  • Society Board of Directors developed
  • Angela Hudson (nee Elliott) appointed as second Society Executive Director
  • Kathy Weswick was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President
  • CHEK-TV holds first Drive Thru to assist Society with providing assistance at Christmas
  • An Advisory Council was developed to help with fundraising for the new building on Yates
  • A Finance Committee, Building Committee, Grounds and Maintenance Committee, Policy Committee and Constitution and Bylaws Committee were established
  • A new logo was introduced
  • The Yates Street development passes public hearing at Victoria City Hall
  • Contruction began in the fall with the funding and support of BC Houing
  • Strategic Plan for operations implemented April 1
  • The conferences revisted their geographic boundaries and changed then
  • The Christ the King Conference formed a Store Management Committee in Courtenay to assist the Courtenay Store
  • An Archive Committee is established and an Archive Library was started at the Frederic Ozanam Centre

2000

  • Construction begins on “St. Vincent de Paul Centre”
  • Courtenay Thrift Store relocates to 2703 Kilpatrick Avenue
  • St. Rose of Lima Conference formed in March at Sooke, BC
  • Human Resource, Social and Management Planning and Operations Committee established

2001

  • Housing vision statement adopted "To provide Housing for the homeless in a safe and supportive environment"
  • +Society Time Capsule inserted in wall of St. Vincent de Paul Centre on October 22
  • Society hires Housing Manager July 16
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe formed in Campbell River, BC
  • The Queen of Peace Conference and Saint Peters Conference were aggregated
  • Saanich Peninsula Conference changes name to “St. Elizabeth of Hungary Conference” to comply with the Rule
  • At the request of CLBC, the Frederic Ozanam Centre starts a summer off-site program at Holy Cross Parish
  • The Society reaches and exceeds the $1M fundraising goal set 18 months earlier
  • On September 27 Bishop Roussin, MLA Jeff Bray and VIctoria Particular Council President Kathy Weswick opened Saint Vincent de Paul Centre
  • The Society administration office relocates to Saint Vincent de paul Centre in November
  • Vincentian Manual was developed and introduced

2002

  • April 9 - Society legally changes name from Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Victoria to “Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Vancouver Island”
  • Society View Street Thrift Store & Social Concern Office move to new location at St. Vincent de Paul Centre
  • Notre Dame Conference formed in Port Alberni, BC
  • St. Elizabeth's Conference was aggregated January 15
  • Two new 3 ton trucks purchased for the retail program
  • Society institutes the requirement for the members, staff and volunteers to acquire criminal record checks
  • Society develops first comprehensive financial, personnel and housing policy manual
  • Society establishes a Youth Extension Committee with an invitation to the Saint Andrew's High School Youth Ministry to particpate
  • Spiritual Retreat and Advocacy Committees established
  • Project Development Committee established to review and determine capital needs of the Society during the next three years.  Renamed the Project Development Committee

2003

  • Society launches first webpage: www.svdpvictoria.com
  • The Society adopts an Organizational Chart the depicts the reporting structure of the conferences and operations
  • Society undertakes a feasibility study of the property at 4349 West Saanich Road
  • Conference geographic boundaries were reviewed and adjusted
  • Advocacy Committee mets with KAIROS to discuss formation of a Social Justice Group
  • Retail Program manager position created
  • William (Bill) Clendinnng was installed as the Victoria Particular Council President
  • Victoria Particular Council aurthizes the Board of Directors to render all decisions affecting the administration, finanicng, directing and supporting of Saint Vincent de Paul activities on Vancouver Island
  • Victoria Particular Council begins to meet bimonthly rather than monthly
  • The Society makes changes to assistance to clients who have developed a dependency on the Society.  Employable clients are provided with assistance to move to greater self-sufficiency

2004

  • Society partners with Island Catholic Schools to create a curriculum guide focusing on the works of the Society
  • Society becomes member of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners
  • New VI Television (now A Channel) partners with Society to assist with Christmas Giving campaign

2005

  • Seismic upgrades and bathroom renovations of Ozanam Centre started March 2005 & completed in May 2005

2006

  • Society enters negotiations with St. Andrew’s Victoria Housing Society to lease office space in basement. This will become future home of Society’s Administration, Members Office and Archives/Library
  • Diocese of Victoria endorses St. Vincent de Paul Awareness Week which begins on world Food Day, October 16, and runs through to Mission Sunday, October 22

2010

  • Esquimalt thrift store opens at Craigflower and Tillicum
  • Thrift store in Courtenay closes

2011

  • Hosting of the National SSVP Annual General Assembly

2012

  • With St Patrick’s conference taking the lead, Green Circuit ministry begins culling fresh produce from Fairway Markets to provide Food Bank with fruits and vegetables

2013

  • Quadra Wearhouse opens

2014

  • Hope Centre opens in Sooke, partnering with M’akola Housing to provide housing for Aboriginal youth at risk

2015

  • St Rose of Lima conference returns to active ministry after several years of dormancy
  • St Andrew’s Housing is incorporated within the Society
  • Society warehouse moves from Quadra location to Keating Crossroads
  • Construction begins on Rosalie’s Village – housing for single moms and their children with onsite daycare
  • Society received the BC Non Profit Housing Association "Housing Provider of the Year Award" for its inovative work in the non profit housing sector in BC
  • Society received the Vancouver Island Commercial Building Awards 2015: Community/Insitutional Merit Award for Hope Centre in Sooke

2016

  • Celebrated the Society’s 100th year on Vancouver Island with a Mass at Sacred Heart Parish and a silent auction and gala dinner on September 27, 2016
  • Adopted a new organizational structure to accommodate the growth of the Society and the addition of our new housing programs
  • Completed the $400,000 exterior renovation to the Memorial Manor seniors building in Royal Oak funded by BC Housing
  • Completed Rosalie’s Village in Royal Oak on time and under budget in the fall and accepting our first mother’s and young children as tenants in December
  • Opened our first childcare Centre "Mary’s Place" in spring of 2017 with 37 spaces for children under 5
  • Completed the major capital upgrades to the Ozanam courtyard and building entrance to accommodate the accessibility of our participants in the Ozanam day program
  • Revised the strategic plan to focus on building capacity and internal growth to support the new Society initiatives while highlighting the major importance of the home visits and person to person contact for the members of the conferences
  • Revised the constitution and bylaws for the new Society Act requirements

2017

  • Society received the Victoria Real Estate Board 2017 Commerical Building Award for Rosalie's Village
  • Society received the Victoria Real Estate Board 2017 Community Impact Award for Rosalie's Village
  • The Langford Thrift store was a finalist in the Best of the West Shore Second Hand Shopping
  • The Society received a large legacy donation from the Sister's of Saint Ann specifically designated to support the women and children of Rosalie's Village

2018

  • The Society received a three year CARF accrediation award for the Ozanam Program for people with developmental disabilities and the Society governance structure

2019

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