Members of the Society of St.Vincent de Paul (or "Vincentians" ) are men and women who strive to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to individuals in need. We are young and old. Our members come in every shade of skin color. Some of us are wealthy, some are financially poor, but all of us are blessed with an awareness that our blessings (time, talent or treasure) are to be shared with our brothers and sisters in need.
We know that we are not alone. We are part of an international society of friends united by a spirit of poverty, humility, and sharing, which is nourished by prayer and reflection, mutually supportive gatherings, and adherence to a basic Rule.
Energized by the awareness that service to our brother or sister in need is in fact an encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are keenly aware that poverty, suffering and loneliness are present for millions in our communities. For that reason, we collaborate with all who seek to relieve need and address its causes.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers tangible assistance to those in need on a person-to-person basis. It is this personalized involvement that makes the work of the Society unique. This aid may take the form of intervention, consultation, or often through direct dollar or in-kind service. An essential precept of the Society's work is to provide help while conscientiously maintaining the confidentiality and dignity of those who are served. The Society recognizes that it must assume, also, a role of advocacy for those who are defenseless or voiceless. Some 12 million persons are helped annually by Vincentians in the United States.
The list of services of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States is endless. No work of charity is foreign to the Society. To quote our patron, St. Vincent de Paul: "Charity is infinitely inventive."
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is composed of women and men who seek their personal holiness through works of charity. In this essential way, the Society differs from charitable associations or agencies whose principal objective is not the spiritual advancement of their members but the doing of good for someone else.
President-General Adolpe Baudon, in his Circular Letter of January 1, 1877, writes:
"It is laid down in our Rule, and it has been always understood among us, that in uniting to serve our masters the poor, as St. Vincent de Paul expresses it, our object is not only to relieve material misery, a very laudable purpose in itself, but to aspire, especially, through the practice of that most sublime of virtues "charity" to render ourselves better and more fervent Christians, and to make our poor enter on the same path, if we have the happiness of succeeding."
In his Circular Letter of December 12, 1915, Vicomte Hendecourt, President-General writes:
"The Society has two aims: to do a great deal of spiritual good to its members through the exercise of charity, and to do a little spiritual and temporal good to a few poor families in the name of Jesus Christ. If it did not continually seek to combine these two aims, it would lose its raison d'etre . If it were to seek only the holiness of its members through pious exercises, there is no lack of Confraternities and Third Orders to meet that need. If on the other hand, it were to seek only the relief of the temporal miseries of the poor, it would only add one more to the list of public and private institutions founded for that purpose."The Mission Statement is clear: Vincentian ministry is a means for acquiring holiness. The ministry of a Vincentian to those and with those who stand in need is the powerful means that affects holiness of life for the individual Vincentian. Vatican II states that the principal means of holiness for bishops and priests is their ministry. This applies to the laity also, because, in attending to the needy and suffering, a Vincentian is ministering to Jesus Christ himself.
Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary's Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.
The Knights was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works.
The history of the Order shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is being investigated by the Vatican, brought about what has become the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities.
The Knights of Columbus has grown from several members in one council to more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan.
All the good works we do are informed by our four core principles: