Society Orientation Pre-course information

“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 45-60 minutes to view all of the content.

To access further courses on the Learning Path, close the current window once you have completed the content.

Welcome to the 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 .

What does the Society’s logo mean?

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.


  • Under the Privacy Act 1988, we need to explain why personal information is being collected, how it will be used and when it will be disclosed
  • The person we assist does not have to give us their real name
  • It is OK to visit a client by yourself
  • We do not need to be aware of Child Protection principles as we do not assist children without their parents / carers
  • The person we assist can ask to access the information we write about them


‘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.

How would you explain the difference between a hand out and a hand up to the people we assist?

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.

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.

Select the services we are able to assist people with:

  • Advocacy
  • Mobile food services
  • Migrant and refugee support
  • Prison visitation
  • Hospital visitation
  • Home visitation
  • Friendship program for people with a mental illness
  • Employment support
  • Emergency accommodation
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation services
  • Disability services
  • Children’ activities and holiday programs
  • Aged care

Name ten services the St Vincent de Paul Society provides

Where does the Society get its money from?

  • donations and bequests
  • the Parish
  • the retail shops
  • government funding
  • all of the above

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


Introduction to Frederic Ozanam

A young student, Frederic Ozanam had to walk through the poorer suburbs of Paris on his way to university lectures each day and he soon became deeply moved at the hopeless state of families who had been left without the support of their breadwinners after the French Revolution.

Frederic Ozanam gathered a few friends around him and on 23 April 1833, they met to decide what they could do to assist the poor. After the meeting Frederic and his flat mate took the remainder of their winter wood supply and gave it to a widow. These young men attracted the comment "What can seven young men hope to achieve in alleviating the suffering of Paris?" Fortunately Ozanam paid little heed to their comments, determined to satisfy his own conscience that he was doing what he could to bear witness to his Christian upbringing by assisting those less fortunate in the community.

See the video below for more about Frederic and how he and his friends started the work that we continue today.


Introduction to St Vincent de Paul

Vincent de Paul was born in the small southern French town of Pouy (later renamed Saint Vincent de Paul in his honour) on 24 April 1581 and ordained as a priest in 1600 at the age of 19.

As a young man he ministered to the wealthy and powerful. However an appointment as chaplain to a poor parish, and to galley prisoners, inspired him to a vocation of working with those most marginalised and powerless.

Vincent urged his followers to bring God’s justice and love to people who were unable to live a full human life:“Deal with the most urgent needs. Organise charity so that it is more efficient…teach reading and writing, educate with the aim of giving each the means of self-support. Intervene with authorities to obtain reforms in structure… there is no charity without justice.”

Vincent de Paul died in Paris on 27 September 1660 at the age of 79. He was canonised on 16 June 1737 and, in 1883, the Church designated him as the special patron of all charitable associations.

The Society was named after Saint Vincent de Paul and follows his teachings and compassion for people in need. Saint Vincent de Paul is the international patron of the Society.



  • The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded by a 20 year old student
  • The student’s name was St Vincent
  • Charles Gordon O’Neill started the first Conference in Sydney in 1881
  • Sr Rosalie Rendu was instrumental in assisting Frederic Ozanam and his friends develop the skills they needed to assist the poor
  • The St Vincent de Paul Society is an international organisation
  • The Society receives direct funding from the Catholic Church


The Rule

The Society, during its 170 years of existence, has developed only three fundamental texts, including the Rule which is attached here for you to download.

Within the Rule there are five elements above all others on which we should focus:

i.                     the need for prayer, both individual and collective

ii.                   our personal commitment through action

iii.                  the unity in which we must share as brothers and sisters

iv.                 the universality of our commitment to serve the poor and marginalised and

v.                   our vocation as members of the Church community

For an organisation likes ours, the Rule is always important. It is even  more so in that the Society requires a total commitment of ourselves. The members have the obligation to abide by the Rule from the very first moment they belong to our world-wide community.   In order to achieve a personal commitment to the poor, it is necessary to first have a solid sense of community within each one of our Conferences. The Rule calls on us to benefit from both individual and collective prayer. It also, however, invites us to share in a deep relationship of solidarity as brothers and sisters.

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.

Powerpoint Presentation



Introduction to the Vinnies national website

The Vinnies website is full of useful information about the Society's history, structure and current work. 

Take some time to browse the website and become familiar with all of the different areas of work and how you can find out more.