Founder's example inspires Society's advocacy

Founder's example inspires Society's advocacy

Media Release
First Nations

It may seem a far cry from impoverished Paris in the mid-1800s to urging a “Yes” vote in an Australian referendum in 2023, but a strong commitment to social justice, along with practical help for people in need, has remained a constant for St Vincent de Paul Society over the years.

The life of Frederic Ozanam, one of the Society’s main founders, is marked each year with a celebratory Feast Day on 9 September. A lawyer and journalist, he helped form a group that undertook charitable works as well as advocating for social change in a deeply inequitable society.

‘Australia is facing many social challenges, such as the need to ensure that First Peoples have a greater say over their own future,’ said St Vincent de Paul Society’s National President, Mark Gaetani.

‘There is also the importance of ensuring newcomers are treated properly, as will be highlighted by the upcoming (24 September) Catholic World Day of Migrants and Refugees. ‘In addition, we are urging the Government to reform tax, welfare and superannuation policy in order to provide greater security to people living in, or at risk of facing, poverty.

‘Such injustices show there is no better time to heed the example of Frederic Ozanam who was an ardent advocate for fairness,’ said Mr Gaetani, who has paid his respects at the tomb of Frederic Ozanam in central Paris.

‘The Society’s focus goes well beyond providing important services such as food vans, emergency assistance and safe accommodation. In line with our inspirational guidelines, known as The Rule, we are “concerned not only with alleviating need but also with identifying the unjust structures that cause it”.

‘The Rule commits us “to identifying the root causes of poverty and to contributing to their elimination. In all [our] charitable actions there should be a search for justice…”

Mr Gaetani said, ‘The spirit of Frederic Ozanam looms large in the consciousness of the Society’s 45,000 members and volunteers around Australia. The events we currently see around us serve as a reminder that the need to engage in targeted and well researched advocacy has never been greater.

‘Sizable groups of the Australian population should not be left out or left behind. It is vital that we help foster a fairer, more inclusive country, and no better example can be found than in the commitment of Frederic Ozanam, whose work we commemorate this week.’

Regarded as the key founder of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Frédéric Ozanam (23 April 1813 – 8 Sept 1853) formed a group inspired by the work in the slums of Paris being done by the Congregation of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, under the guidance of Sister Rosalie Rendu.

He joined his colleagues in visiting the poorer districts of Paris to offer practical support. So began the Society’s tradition of home visitations.

The Society serves people in need in 112 countries, a living monument to Frederic Ozanam and his companions. Frederic Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia consists of 45,000 members and volunteers who operate on the ground through over 1,000 groups located in local communities across the country.

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