A statue of St. Vincent de Paul stands outside the St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salem. The saint is patron of all charitable societies. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
A statue of St. Vincent de Paul stands outside the St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Salem. The saint is patron of all charitable societies. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)

It was a poor peasant family in Pouy, France that brought St. Vincent de Paul into the world in 1581. The saint’s first formal education was given by Franciscans in Dax. He excelled in his studies and was hired on as a tutor by a local wealthy family. The money he earned paid for his education at the University of Toulouse. He was ordained in 1600.

Legend has it that St. Vincent was captured by pirates while traveling to Narbone. He was allegedly sold as a slave in Tunis before escaping two years later.

After moving on to Rome to continue his education, St. Vincent became a chaplain to the Count of Goigny. This role launched his work with the poor. He was put in charge of distributing money to deserving poor.

“How consoled you will be at the hour of death for having consumed your life for the same reason for which Jesus Christ gave His life — for charity, for God, for the poor,” St. Vincent de Paul is quoted as saying.

He spent the rest of his life preaching and working with the needy. Not only did he work to provide them with relief, he established hospitals to care for them. To help in his mission, he created a women’s lay ministry, the Ladies of Charity, and the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, a religious community for priests. Members of the congregation are known primarily as Vincentians. As of 2019, there are about 4,000 members in 86 countries. St. Vincent also cofounded the Daughters of Charity with St. Louise de Marillac. The women’s religious community has 14,000 members serving in 90 different countries. The Daughters of Charity was the first noncloistered community of women religious dedicated to active charity.

The saint died in Paris in 1660 at the age of 80 years old. He was canonized in 1737 and is the patron of charitable societies. His feast day is Sept. 27.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org