Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853) was the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Fredric was a student at the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris, when he joined a student organization called the Conference of History. The group met on Saturdays and covered a variety of topics. One discussion particularly challenged the practicing Catholics to examine the works that they were doing. Inspired by this discussion, Frederic and five of his friends founded the Conference of Charity to assist the poor. They soon changed their name to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in honor of their patron. St. Vincent was a man of deep faith, keen intellect, and enormous creativity. Known as the Father of the Poor and the Apostle of Charity, his contributions to training priests, organizing parish missions, and serving the poor shaped the church’s role in the modern world.
Frederic was only 20 when he founded the organization. He became a husband and father as he continued his work with the poor. By his side was the blessed Rosalie Rendu (1786-1856) who served the most impoverished district of Paris for 54 years. Rosalie was known for her great works and also for her mentorship as she taught members how to serve the poor with respect and compassion. Frederic and Rosalie not only learned from the wonderful past works of St. Vincent, but also from the great works of St. Louise de Marillac (1591-1660), who founded the Daughters of Charity and organized hospitals for the sick and poor, asylums for the orphaned, and workshops for the unemployed, while simultaneously championing literacy for the uneducated, and establishing standards for local charities.
With original intentions still intact, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul now has a worldwide presence with over 800,000 members. Each chapter serves in different ways, however we are connected in our mission.
The St. Brigid Chapter was founded at St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington-Normal, IL. Monsignor Jerry Ward and Sister Rita Ann Bregenhorn had been handling requests for assistance personally until the need for additional support became apparent. Together with 16 parish volunteers, they developed our local Society and accepted first applications in October of 2009. In 2010, the organization served 194 calls for help and each year the numbers increased. In 2017, we served 788 community members in need thanks to the generosity of our donors and work of our 60+ volunteers.