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Who was Saint Vincent de Paul?
Saint Vincent de Paul, our community’s patron saint, was the son of French peasants. His father wanted a different way of life for him than his family’s traditional role of tending sheep. With this parental goal in mind, he sent Vincent to study with the Franciscans at Dax, France. Later Vincent continued his studies at Saragossa and Toulouse and was ordained a priest in 1600.

A major event came to pass in Vincent’s life, when, traveling by boat, he was captured by African pirates, brought to Tunis, Africa, and sold as a slave.

vincent
Saint Vincent de Paul

Over a two-year period, Vincent had three “owners” and succeeded in converting his third “master” to Christianity and together they returned to Vincent’s homeland. There Vincent became the almoner for Queen Marguerite of Valois, pastor of Clichy, and tutor to the family of Count and Countess de Gondi. In 1625, this devout couple persuaded Vincent to establish a congregation of priests. Their mission would be to perform charitable works and to preach in the towns and villages.

Vincent wrote the new community’s Rule of Life, and named the congregation, the Institute of the Missions. Its priests, however, soon became known as Vincentians, in honor of their founder, or Lazarists, for the name of their monastery, Saint Lazare Priory. The Vincentians were soon directing seminaries and colleges in various parts of the world and working with the poor in countries like Italy, Poland, Ireland and Scotland.

Though Vincent, marked by his own experience, procured the ransom of over 1200 Christians enslaved in North Africa, his name is most well known for his untiring and effective work on behalf of the poor, sick, aged and orphaned. He built or procured hospitals, homes for orphans, foundlings and the aged, and founded confraternities in parishes to look after the sick poor. Even today there are societies, hospitals, nursing homes, and homes for children that bear his name.

What links Saint Vincent to the Sisters of Providence?
As Sisters of Providence, we see the first thread of Vincent in our lives when he organized the Ladies of Charity, a group of well-to-do women who both assisted him in his work and collected revenue to support his charitable works.

Finding he really needed full-time help, Vincent, with the help of Louise de Marillac, founded the Daughters of Charity, a women’s religious community, for this purpose. He named its members “daughters” rather than sisters because nuns of the day were confined to convent cloisters. He needed the new order to be an apostolic one. His Daughters of Charity would, instead, consider parish churches their “chapels,” and the streets and hospital wards of Paris, their “cloisters.”

Vincent’s Rule of Life for the Daughters of Charity is the Rule we, Sisters of Providence, follow today.

Vincent died at 90 years of age. Pope Leo III declared him the patron of all charitable institutions.

More information on the spirituality of Saint Vincent.

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