Vincent de Paul (24 April 1581 – 27 September 1660) was a Catholic priest dedicated to serving the poor, who is venerated as a saint.
Image: St Vincent de Paul on a German postage stamp
De Paul was born in Landes, Gascony, France, to a peasant family. He had three brothers and two sisters.
De Paul studied humanities in Dax, France with the Cordeliers and he graduated in theology at Toulouse. He was ordained in 1600, remaining in Toulouse until he went to Marseille for an inheritance. In 1605, on his way back from Marseille, he was taken captive by Turkish pirates, who brought him to Tunis and sold him into slavery. After converting his owner to Christianity, Vincent de Paul was freed in 1607.
After returning to France, De Paul went to Rome to continue studying until 1609, when he was sent back to France on a mission to Henry IV of France.
In 1622 De Paul was appointed chaplain to the galleys, and in this capacity he gave missions for the galley-slaves.
De Paul founded the Congregation of the Mission, and with Louise de Marillac he founded the Daughters of Charity.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (the Vinnies) is part of the Vincentian Family which also includes the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian priests and brothers, also founded by St. Vincent de Paul), Daughters of Charity, Ladies of Charity (organization of lay women who help the poor, founded by St. Vincent de Paul), Sisters of Charity in the Setonian tradition, and several others, including some religious groups who are part of the Anglican Communion, like Company of Mission Priests.
The Society numbers about 950,000 in some 132 countries worldwide, whose members operate through "conferences". A conference may be based out of a church, community centre, school, hospital, etc., and is composed of Catholic volunteers who dedicate their time and resources to help those in need in their community.
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