Thanks to Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity, who served the needy and stood at the barricades with the poor, Frederic and a small group of friends learned how to deal with people in poverty and how to meet their needs.
They formed the first “Conference of Charity,” which soon expanded to become the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. They met weekly, contributed to a secret collection and visited the poor in their homes.
The link below leads to a powerful video “The Challenge and Witness of Frederic Ozanam”, on the life and work of our founder, and on the historical events and social conditions of his time. This video became available in 2013 to celebrate the bicentennial of Frederic’s birth. He was born on April 23, 1813, in Milan, Italy, where his parents had moved temporarily from France. This video, with a brief introduction by Bishop Quinn, gives us an excellent understanding of Frederic’s life, his determination, his hopes and the difficulties that he encountered.
The problem that divides men and women in our day is... whether society will be only a great exploitation to the profit of the strongest or a consecration of each individual for the good of all and especially for the protection of the weak. There are a great many men and women who have too much and who wish to have more; there are a great many others, who do not have enough, who have nothing, and who are willing to take if someone gives to them Between these two classes of men, a confrontation is coming, and this menacing confrontation will be terrible: on the one side, the power of gold, on the other the power of despair.
We must cast ourselves between these two enemy armies, if not to prevent, at least to deaden the shock. And our youth and our mediocrity do not make our role of mediators easier than our title of Christian makes us responsible. In this, there is the possible usefulness of our Society of St. Vincent de Paul.