No fanfare – but results

Anthony Thornton, National President, St Vincent de Paul Society

The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded in Paris in 1833 by a Catholic university student, Frederic Ozanam and his companions.

Just as we, quite rightly, show respect to the First Peoples of Australia, in many ways the heart of the St Vincent de Paul Society is a profound sense of respect for the people we serve.

As St Vincent de Paul, our patron, expressed it: the poor are where we seek, and find, our God.

We were actually founded on the basis of a dare among uni students in Paris. One bunch of students challenged another bunch to prove how their beliefs could be translated into actions. Instead of verbally refuting the challengers, the young Frederic Ozanam and his small group of mates decided to take up the dare and to do something practical. It could almost be construed of a cheeky way of admitting that their challengers were right whilst resolutely proving them wrong. This privileged group of university students began by delivering firewood to the garret of a family experiencing dire poverty.

They did this with no fanfare. They saw a need and they sought to meet it. They were interested in results, even humble results. But the results were, and are, not always apparent.