Society Orientation - Pre-course Information

Welcome to the St Vincent de Paul Society

“Christianity is not about ideas but about deeds inspired by love.” Frederic Ozanam

This information session provides a brief introduction to the St Vincent de Paul Society. Please take the time to go through all of the content before you attend the Society Orientation training, as this helps to provide you with much of the background information that enables us to keep the face-to-face training sessions as brief as possible. 

Please make a note of any questions that you might have from this session so that you can take them to your training.

You should set aside approximately 15-20 minutes to view all of the content.

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Welcome to the St Vincent de Paul Society

Our  Vision and Mission

Our Mission

The St Vincent de Paul Society is a lay Catholic organisation that aspires to live the gospel message by serving Christ in the poor with love, respect, justice, hope and joy, and by working to shape a more just and compassionate society.

Our Vision

The Society aspires to be recognised as a caring Catholic charity offering “a hand up” to people in need. We do this by respecting their dignity, sharing our hope, and encouraging them to take control of their own destiny.


The essential spirituality of the Society is faith in action. St Vincent de Paul Society members and volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, experiences and beliefs. As they engage in service with other members and volunteers the spirituality of the Society shapes their attitudes and actions. Some characteristics are described here:

  • Inspired by the compassion of Jesus, members seek to be compassionate and respectful to all.
  • Like Frederic Ozanam, who founded the Society with a group of his friends, members come to experience direct human relationships as being at the heart of Christian charity.
  • Members and volunteers serve with humility, authenticity, and without judgement .

Organisational Structure

Councils are formed to provide a link between grass roots groups within the Society, known as ‘Conferences’. Between the National Council and conferences may be Regional Council, Central Councils and State or Territory Councils. Councils meet on a regular basis. The frequency, manner and agenda of the meetings are determined by the Council but each Council must meet at least quarterly.

The Conference

There are various kinds of Conferences, all of them offering the hand of friendship. The Rule states that ‘A Conference may be established within any community such as a parish, town, workplace, ethnic or social group’ (Part 3, Article 2). Most Conferences respond to calls for assistance from people in the local community.

Whether it be in the home, at a Care and Support Centre or in a Hub, visits are always made by two members. Meeting people face-to-face offers the opportunity to get to know them and their situation. Members listen with respect and compassion and discuss how the Society may be able to help.


‘The Society is open to all those who seek to live their faith loving and committing themselves to their neighbour in need’ (The Rule, Part 1, 3.1). 

Members meet regularly for spiritual reflection and to share their visitation experiences. All details of those we assist are confidential within the Conference, other ways of supporting people or following up are sometimes discussed and news from regional meetings and other information is shared.

True or False

  • A Conference may be established within any community such as a parish, town, workplace, ethnic or social group
  • The Society operates approximately 100 Special Works in NSW
  • The code of conduct only applies to employees and not to members and volunteers

Training and Conduct

Formation and Training

The Rule 3.12 says ‘It is essential that the Society continually promote the formation and training of its members and officers, in order to deepen their knowledge of the Society and their spirituality, improve the sensitivity, quality and efficiency of their service to the poor and help them be aware of the benefits, resources and opportunities that are available for the poor.’ 

You are encouraged to attend all training available to you.

Code of Conduct

All members and volunteers are expected to follow  the Society’s Code of Conduct which reflects our commitment to working together to promote an ethical, just, caring and responsible working environment for all.

The Code of Conduct Booklet is available to download below and we encourage you to take the time to read about the values and behaviours that are expected.

Many Opportunities

Vinnies Shops

Vinnies shops are a vital part of the St Vincent de Paul Society and are managed within their own administrative structure. They are a resource for Conferences and the people we assist. During their visits, members sometimes prepare a voucher for a person to receive goods from the shops.

Many works, one Society

We are all one Society, living our mission through a  variety of works. In addition to Vinnies shops and our Conferences, the Society operates approximately 100 Special Works in NSW. Many volunteers assist in these services which provide specific care and support to some of the community’s most marginalised.