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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. 

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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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


  • A. Ritz is installed as Victoria Particular Council President


  • The Society decides to assist Hungarian Refugees


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


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


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


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


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


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


  • “Welfare Office” is 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


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


  • Art Paalvast is installed as Victoria Particular Council President


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


  • The Sacred Heart Conference is aggregated on January 23


  • Frank Rushton is installed as Victoria Particular Council President


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


  • The Achievement Program is started for people with disabilities
  • Frederic Ozanam Centre is 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 is aggregated on October 25th, 1982


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


  • Our Lady of the Rosary Conference is formed


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


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


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


  • Donna Marasco is appointed as the Society's first Executive Director
  • The 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 of the Society Newsletter is introduced in November
  • Negotiations begin for the purchase of 831-833 Yates Street (ABC Electric)
  • The Frederic Ozanam Centre purhcases a new van


  • 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


  • A building is purchased at 6750 West Coast Road in Sooke. The Sooke Thrift Store moves to the new location and opens May 1
  • Saint Patrick's Conference is aggregated on May 30
  • Our Lady of Rosary Conference is aggregated on September 12
  • The Society establishes five goals:
    • To provide the 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


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


  • Christ the King Conference is aggregated on May 13
  • The Ozanam Centre Day Program is restructered due to changes in employment standards
  • A computer database is installed in the Social Concern Office
  • The Langford and Sooke Thrift Stores undergo renovations


  • Frederic Ozanam Conference is formed in Nanaimo, BC, and its name is 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 is appointed


  • Society adopts the new slogan “Building a Better Future - By Caring Today”
  • The concept artwork for the new Saint Vincent de Paul Centre on Yates street is unveiled
  • A Strategic Plan for operations is completed
  • The Social Concern office adopts 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


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


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


  • Housing Vision Statement is adopted: "To provide Housing for the homeless in a safe and supportive environment"
  • Society Time Capsule is inserted in wall of St. Vincent de Paul Centre on October 22
  • Society hires Housing Manager July 16
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe is formed in Campbell River, BC
  • The Queen of Peace Conference and Saint Peters Conference are aggregated
  • Saanich Peninsula Conference changes its 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 open Saint Vincent de Paul Centre
  • The Society administration office relocates to Saint Vincent de Paul Centre in November
  • The Vincentian Manual is developed and introduced


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


  • The Society launches first webpage:
  • The Society adopts an Organizational Chart which depicts the reporting structure of the conferences and operations
  • The Society undertakes a feasibility study of the property at 4349 West Saanich Road
  • Conference geographic boundaries are reviewed and adjusted
  • Advocacy Committee meets with KAIROS to discuss formation of a Social Justice Group
  • Retail Program manager position is created
  • William (Bill) Clendinnng is installed as the Victoria Particular Council President
  • Victoria Particular Council authorizes 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


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


  • Seismic upgrades and bathroom renovations of Ozanam Centre begin in March and are completed in May 


  • The Society enters negotiations with St. Andrew’s Victoria Housing Society to lease office space in the basement. This will become the future home of the Society’s Administration, Members' Office and Archives/Library
  • The 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


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


  • The Society hosts the National SSVP Annual General Assembly


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


  • Quadra Wearhouse opens


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


  • 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 Cross Rd
  • Construction begins on Rosalie’s Village – housing for single moms and their children with on-site daycare
  • The Society receives the BC Non Profit Housing Association "Housing Provider of the Year Award" for its innovative work in the non-profit housing sector in BC
  • The Society received the Vancouver Island Commercial Building Awards 2015: Community/Insitutional Merit Award for Hope Centre in Sooke


  • The Society’s 100th year on Vancouver Island is celebrated with a Mass at Sacred Heart Parish and a silent auction and gala dinner on September 27, 2016
  • The Society adopts a new organizational structure to accommodate the growth of the Society and the addition of our new housing programs
  • $400,000 exterior renovation to the Memorial Manor seniors building in Royal Oak funded by BC Housing is completed
  • Rosalie’s Village in Royal Oak is completed on time and under budget in the fall and accepts the first mothers and young children as tenants in December
  • The Society opens its first childcare Centre, "Mary’s Place", in spring of 2017 with 37 spaces for children under 5
  • Major capital upgrades to the Ozanam courtyard and building entrance are completed to accommodate the accessibility of our participants in the Ozanam day program
  • Strategic plan is revised 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
  • Constitution and Bylaws are revised for the new Society Act requirements


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


  • The Society receives a three-year CARF accrediation award for the Ozanam Program for people with developmental disabilities and the Society governance structure
  • The Yates Street and Sidney Thrift Stores cease operations
  • The Yates Street property undergoes renovations and the Social Concern Office reopens at 831 Yates Street
  • The Social Concern Office Food Bank moves to a shopping-style experience, giving clients more dignity by allowing them to select the healthy foods they prefer


  • The North Island Particular Council and the Victoria Particular Council amalgamate to form the Vancouver Island Particular Council
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