Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul was born on April 24th, 1581 in Dax, Castogne in the south of Burgundy (France). His parents were simple people of peasant descent. Vincent was a shepherd first. Then he studied theology and after his ordination -he was only 19 years old- he was imprisoned by the Turks. He was treated like a slave, converted his master and fled with him to Rome and France. At first he was a parish priest in Clichy, near Paris and became the main chaplain of the galley slaves shortly after. His love for fellow-man knew no bounds: he cared for foundlings, for boys and girls in danger, for galley slaves, fallen women, mentally ill, beggars, sick pilgrims etc.

Vincent de Paul launched a movement of charitableness: first of all he founded the charity institutions (generally known as the St Vincent de Paul movement) then he founded the Daughters of Charity, young women who were to work within these institutions and finally the Priests of the Mission otherwise known as Lazarists/ Vincentians.

Vincent set up rules for these institutions. The influence of these rules did not remain restricted to the groups he founded. Two centuries later it inspired many 19th century congregations to make the spirit of Vincent their own. He is therefore often called the Father of active religious.

Vincent de Paul was one of the first people in history who had broken through the traditional scheme which restricted religious life for women to those who as it was called, withdrew from the world and consecrated themselves in rigid seclusion to their own perfection. Vincent dared to take use step of entrusting activities outside the convent walls to women religious, and commit them especially to places where human needs required their presence. Fascinated and inspired by him, therefore, Antonius van Baer wanted to give this kind of pattern to the life of the Sisters he founded together with Elisabeth Gruyters.

On September 18th, 1660, he died in Paris and was buried in the monastry of Saint Lazarus/Vincent.