in 1835 the development of the Society from a single group into an organization
with many units necessitated regulations that would
help preserve the objectives and spirit of the original foundation.
In 1835, two years after founding, the Society formulated its Rule,
a series of Articles, based upon the practical experiences of the
first Vincentians. With only a few major changes, this Rule
continued as the guide and blueprint for the Society during the next
100 and more years.
any group endeavor requiring coordination and leadership, there must
be a set of parameters in which the resultant organization can
successfully and effectively operate.
The Rule of the Society was not written to establish grounds
for disciplining Vincentians, Conferences, or Councils. It is a
brief statement, internationally approved and drawn from over 150
years of Vincentian experiences, which describes the elements, which
are needed to maintain the unity of the Society. In this light, the
Rule is not restrictive but liberating and life giving. It expresses
what we are, what we have been, and what we want to be. The Rule
should be neither ignored nor worshipped, but rather held up as an
expression of oneness with the Vincentian family worldwide.
In the exercise of
faithfulness to the Rule, Vincentians are given guidance in the
application of the Rule with the publication of Approved USA
Commentary. As approved by the National Trustees of the Society in
1979, the USA Commentary is not the same as the Rule, but members,
Conferences and Councils are expected to be faithful to the
application of this Approved USA Commentary to the Rule as it
applies to the Society in the United States.
Copies of this commentary are available to conference presidents at
our District Council office.
OF THE INTERNATIONAL
CONFEDERATION OF THE SOCIETYOF
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
1. THE ORIGINS OF THE SOCIETY &SERVICE
TO THE POOR
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul
is a worldwide Christian
community, founded in Paris in 1833, by a group of young
Catholic lay people and an
older person, who joined
together to create the first
Conference. The Society wishes
to remember them all with
gratitude, as they set an
example of dedication to the poor and to the Church. From
Le Taillandier, who received
the first inspiration, to Blessed
Frederic Ozanam, Paul Lamache, Francois Lallier,
Jules Deveaux, Felix Dave,
all of them knew, in their
humility, how to seek the wise advice and support of the
one who would become the first
President General of the flourishing Society, Emmanuel
The Holy Spirit was undoubtedly present in all of them at
the founding of the Society,
fostering the charisms of each
one. Among them, Blessed
Frederic Ozanam was a radiant source of inspiration.
The Society has been Catholic from its origins. It remains
an international Catholic
voluntary organization of lay people, men and women.
SCOPE OF OUR SERVICE
1.2 The Vincentian Vocation
The vocation of the Society's members, who are called
Vincentians, is to follow
Christ through service to those in
need and so bear witness to His compassionate and liberating
love. Members show their commitment through person-to-person
contact. Vincentians serve in hope.
1.3 Any form of personal help...
No work of charity is foreign to the Society. It includes any
form of help that alleviates
suffering or deprivation and
promotes human dignity and personal integrity in all their
1.4...to anyone in need
The Society serves those in need
regardless of creed,
ethnic or social background,
health, gender, or political opinions.
1.5 To Seek Out the Poor
Vincentians strive to seek out and find those in need and
the forgotten, the
victims of exclusion or adversity.
1.6 Adaptation to a Changing World
Faithful to the spirit of its founders, the Society constantly
strives for renewal, adapting
to changing world conditions.
It seeks to be ever aware of
the changes that occur in
human society and the new
types of poverty that may be
identified or anticipated. It
gives priority to the poorest of the poor and to those
who are most rejected by society.
OUR PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH THE POOR
1.7 Prayer Before Personal
Encounters or Visits
Vincentians pray that the Holy
Spirit may guide them
during their visits and make them channels for the peace
and joy of Christ.
1.8 Reverence for the poor
Vincentians serve the poor cheerfully, listening to them and
respecting their wishes,
helping them to feel and recover
their own dignity, for we are
all created in God's image. In the poor, they see the
Members observe the utmost confidentiality in the provision
of material and any other type of support.
Vincentians endeavor to establish relationships based on
trust and friendship. Conscious
of their own frailty and
weakness, their hearts beat with the heartbeat of the poor.
They do not judge those they
serve. Rather, they seek to understand them as they would a
brother or sister.
Promotion of self-sufficiency
Vincentians endeavor to help the poor to help themselves
whenever possible, and to be
aware that they can forge
and change their own destinies
and that of their local community.
1.11 Concerns for deeper needs
sincerely concerned with the deeper needs
and the spiritual well-being of
those they help, always
observing a profound respect for their conscience and the
faith they believe in, listening
and understanding with their hearts, beyond both words and
Vincentians serve in hope. They rejoice in discovering the spirit of
prayer in the poor, for in the silence, the poor can
perceive God's Plan for every person.
acceptance of God's Plan leads each one to nurture the
seeds of love, generosity,
reconciliation and inner peace in
themselves, their families and all those whose lives they touch.
Vincentians are privileged to foster these signs of
the presence of Risen Christ in
the poor and among themselves.
Gratitude to those we visit
Vincentians never forget the many blessings they receive
from those they visit. They
recognize that the fruit of their labors springs, not from
themselves, but especially from God and from the poor they
Faith in Christ and
the Life of Grace
"Since we are
justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus
Christ. Through Him we have
obtained access to this
grace in which we stand, and we
rejoice in our hope of
sharing the glory of God" (Rom. 5,12).
Love in Union with Christ
Convinced of the truth of the Apostle St. Paul's words,
Vincentians seek to draw closer
to Christ. They hope that someday
it will be no longer they who love, but Christ who loves
through them (Gal 2,20 "... I have been crucified with Christ; it
is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;
and the life I now live in the
flesh I live by faith in the Son
and that even now, in their caring, the poor may catch a glimpse of
God's great love for them.
The journey together towards holiness
Vincentians are called to journey together towards holiness, because
true holiness is perfect union with Christ and the perfection of
love, which is central to their vocation and the
source of its fruitfulness. They
aspire to burn with the love of God as revealed by Christ and to
deepen their own faith and fidelity.
Vincentians are aware of their own
brokenness and need for God's
grace. They seek His glory, not their own. Their ideal
is to help relieve suffering for
love alone, without thinking of any reward or advantage for
They draw nearer to Christ, serving Him in the poor and
one another. They grow more
perfect in love by expressing
compassionate and tender love to the poor and one another.
Therefore, their journey together towards holiness is
primarily made through:
Visiting and dedicating
themselves to the poor, whose faith and courage often
teach Vincentians how to live.
Vincentians assume the needs
of the poor as their own.
Attending the meeting of the
Conference or Council,
where shared fraternal
spirituality is a source of inspiration.
Promoting a life of prayer
and reflection, both at the
individual and community
level, sharing with their
fellow members. Meditating on their Vincentian experiences offers
them internal spiritual knowledge of themselves, others and the
goodness of God.
their concern into action and their compassion into
practical and effective love
Their journey together
towards holiness will be all the more
fruitful if the members'
personal lives are characterized by
prayer, meditation on the
Holy Scriptures and other
inspirational texts and
devotion to the Eucharist and the
Virgin Mary, whose protection
we have always sought, and to the teachings of the
2.3 Prayer in Union with Christ
In every Conference
throughout the world and in their
personal lives, Vincentians
raise their prayers to God,
united with the prayer of
Christ, on behalf of one another
and their masters the poor,
whose suffering they wish to share.
2.4 The Spirituality of Blessed
The spirituality of one of its founders inspires Vincentians
profoundly. The Blessed Frederic Ozanam:
to renew faith, among all people, in Christ and
in the civilizing effect of
the teachings of the Church through all time.
the establishment of a network of charity and social
justice encircling the world.
Attained holiness as a layman through living the
Gospel fully in all aspects of
Had a passion for
truth, democracy and education.
2.5 The Spirituality of St. Vincent
Having been placed under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul
by the founding members, members of the Society are
inspired by his spirituality,
manifest in his attitudes, his thoughts, his example and his
Vincentians, the key aspects of St. Vincent's spirituality
To love God, our Father,
with the sweat of our brow and the strength of our arms;
To see Christ in
the poor and the poor in Christ;
To share the compassionate and
liberating love of Christ the Evangelizer and Servant of the
To heed the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
2.5.1 Essential virtues
Vincentians seek to emulate St. Vincent
in the five virtues essential for promoting love and respect for the
- frankness, integrity, genuineness.
- accepting the truth about our frailties, gifts
talents and charisms, yet knowing
that all that God gives us
is for others and that we can achieve nothing of eternal
value without His grace.
- friendly assurance and invincible
goodwill, which mean kindness,
sweetness and patience in our relationship with others.
Selflessness - dying to our ego
with a life of self-sacrifice; members share their time,
their possessions, their talents and themselves in a spirit of
- a passion for the full flourishing and eternal happiness of
A vocation for even, moment of our lives
Vincentian vocation affects all aspects of members'
lives, making them more sensitive and caring in their
family, work and leisure
activities. Vincentians are available
for work in the Conferences only
after fulfilling their family and professional duties.
3. MEMBERS, CONFERENCES,
COUNCILS -COMMUNITIES OF FAITH & LOVE
Society is open to all those who seek to live their faith
loving and committing themselves
to their neighbor in need. (See Article 6.4 of the Rule).
Society, in each of its Conferences (the primary basic
unit of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul), makes no
distinction regarding gender,
wealth, occupation, social status or ethnic origin.
Meetings of the Vincentian members
members meet as brothers and sisters with Christ in
midst of them, in Conferences that are genuine
communities of faith and love, of
prayer and action. Spiritual bonds and friendship between members are
essential, as is the common
mission to help the poor and
marginalized. The entire Society
is a true and unique worldwide Community of Vincentian
3.3.1 Frequency of the meetings
The Conferences meet regularly and
weekly, but at least every fortnight.
Fraternity and simplicity
Meetings are held in a spirit of fraternity, simplicity and
Preserving the spirit
Members of all ages strive to preserve
the spirit of youth,
which is characterized by
enthusiasm, adaptability and
creative imagination. They are
willing to make sacrifices
and take risks for the benefit of the poor wherever they
may be: by sharing their
discomfort, needs, and sorrows and defending their rights.
Conferences are grouped under various levels of Councils.
Councils exist to serve all the Conferences they coordinate.
They help the Conferences to
develop their spiritual life, to
intensify their service and to
diversify their activities so that
they may always be responsive to
the needs of those who suffer.
Councils at appropriate levels are particularly called to:
create new Conferences, to help
existing Conferences to
expand, to promote Special Works, to prepare training
courses and encourage Vincentians to attend them, to
foster interest in cooperation
with the Vincentian Family, to
promote cooperation with other
Institutions, to develop friendship between members in the
same area, to provide communication to and from
Conferences and higher Councils.
In summary, to promote the
sense of belonging to a Society which encircles the world.
Young members keep the Society young. They see with
new eyes and often look far
ahead. The Society works
constantly to form Youth Conferences and welcomes young
members into all Conferences.
Their experience in a
community of faith and love and their exposure to poverty
deepen their spirituality, spur
them to action and help them to grow as human beings. The
senior members assume the
responsibility of assisting them along their path of training,
respecting their personal choices and their aspirations of
3.8 Aggregation and Institution
of Conferences and Councils
visible unifying link within the Society is the
Aggregation of the Conferences and the Institution of the
Councils declared by the Council General.
Subsidiary and freedom of action
The Society embraces the Principle of
Subsidiary as its
basic standard of operation.
Decisions are made as close
as possible to the area of
activity to ensure that the local
environment and circumstances
(cultural, social, political,
etc.) are taken into consideration. In this way, the Society
promotes local initiatives within
its spirit. This freedom of
action of Conferences and
Councils, which has been kept faithfully since the origins of the
Society, enables them to
help the poor spontaneously and more effectively, free from
exercising this freedom of action to face the challenge of
poverty in their area,
Vincentians feel called to pray
together for guidance and
strength and for that creative
imagination which is the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,
"Your old men shall dream dreams
and your young men shall see visions" (Joel 3,1).
All decisions are made by consensus
after the necessary
prayer, reflection and consultation. The democratic spirit is
fundamental at all levels of the
Society and, when appropriate, matters are put to a vote.
3.11 Presidents as servant leaders
Following Christ's example, the Presidents at all levels of
the Society endeavor to be
servant leaders. They provide
an encouraging atmosphere in
which the talents, capacities
and spiritual charisms of the
members are identified,
developed and put to the service of the poor and the
Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The President of the
Conference or Council will have special responsibility for
promoting Vincentian spirituality.
3.12 Formation of members
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. The Society also offers
members higher training
in order to better help to raise the cultural and social level
of those who request this support.
3.13 The spirit of poverty and encouragement
Members of the Society are united in the same spirit of
poverty and of sharing. They encourage one another to live
a profound spiritual life and
spirit of prayer. For this purpose, the role of a Spiritual
Adviser is very important.
3.14 The use of money and property for the poor
Vincentians should never forget that giving love, talents and
time is more important than giving money.
Nevertheless, the Society uses money and property to help
relieve the suffering of those in
need. The Society's funds
must be handled with the utmost
care, prudence and
generosity. Money must not be hoarded. Decisions
regarding the use of money and
property are to be made
after reflection in the light of the Gospel and Vincentian
principles. Accurate records
must be kept of all money received or spent. The Society may
not allot funds to other
organizations, except occasionally for other branches of the
Vincentian Family, save under exceptional circumstances.
vitality of the Society's network of charity depends on
the regular and rapid exchange
of news and information.
Such communication broadens the members' horizon and enhances the
interest of members in the experiences and
challenges of their brothers and
sisters throughout the
world. The Vincentian response to communication is a
willingness to learn and a desire to help.
4. RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE
VINCENTIAN & CATHOLIC NETWORK
Conferences and Councils help others in need, both at the
national and international level.
This is one of the activities
most cherished by the Society.
The awareness of acute poverty in a great number of countries and the Vincentian
preferential option for the poor
spurs Conferences and
Councils to assist others with less resources or in particular
This direct link between two Conferences or Councils,
consisting of sharing prayer, a profound friendship and
material resources, is called
twinning. This activity
contributes to world peace and to understanding and cultural
exchange among peoples.
4.1.1 Prayer as the basis of friendship
Twinning promotes spirituality, deep
friendship, solidarity and mutual help. Funds and other material
be provided to enable a Conference
or Council to help local
families. Financial, technical, medical and educational
support is given to projects
which are suggested by the
Society locally and which encourage self-sufficiency. Even more
important is support given through prayer, as well as
through mutual communication
regarding what has been accomplished and what is happening among Vincentians in each area,
including news about persons and families.
4.1.2 Vincentians' personal commitment
Society urges the Vincentians to consider undertaking a
personal commitment for a
particular period of time to work
with Vincentians in other
countries or to spread Conferences.
When disasters, war or major accidents
occur, the Society
launches emergency initiatives on
the spot and provides funds for the local Society to help
4.3 The Vincentian Family
Members throughout the world, together with other
communities inspired by the spirituality of St. Vincent de
Paul and with those whom they
help, form a single family.
Gratefully remembering the
support and encouragement
the first Conference received from Blessed Rosalie Rendu,
the Society maintains and develops
close relationships with
other branches of the Vincentian family, while preserving its
identity. It cooperates with them
in spiritual development
and common projects, as well as with the Church's
charitable pastoral initiatives
at every level, whenever this may be mutually enriching and
useful to those who suffer.
5. RELATIONSHIP WITH THE
A close relationship
Faithful to the clear intentions of Blessed Frederic Ozanam
and his companions, the Society
has a close relationship with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
Respect of the members for
the hierarchy provides the foundation for harmonious
Society is legally autonomous as to its existence,
constitution, organization, rules, activities and internal
government. Vincentians freely
choose their own officers
and manage the Society's activities and assets with full
autonomy, in accordance with their
own Statutes and the legislation in effect in each country.
5.3 Moral recognition
Society recognizes the right and duty of the diocesan
bishop to confirm that none of its activities is contrary to
Catholic faith or morals. The Society, whenever possible,
informs the diocesan bishops of its
activities annually, as a
sign of ecclesial communion.
ECUMENICAL & INTER-FAITH RELATIONSHIPS
6.1 Every member should foster
Each Vincentian should seek to deepen a personal
commitment to ecumenism and to cooperation in works of
charity and justice as a
contribution towards the
achievement of that full and visible unity of the Church for
which Christ prayed, 'that they may all be one. As you,
Father, are in me and I am in you,
may they be one in us so
that the world may believe that you have sent me"
The Society is committed to ecumenical and interfaith cooperation
Following the teachings of the Catholic
Church, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul recognizes, accepts and
the call to ecumenical and
inter-faith dialogue and
cooperation which arise from its charitable activity. It is
prepared to participate in the
Church's ecumenical and
inter-faith initiatives within each country, in harmony with
the diocesan bishop.
6.3 The adoption of practical
Conferences and Councils should
establish a dialogue with
their counterparts in other Christian churches or ecclesial
communities and other faiths, with
regard to cooperation in charitable work, wherever this is
Ecumenical and inter-faith membership
some countries, circumstances may make it desirable to
accept as members Christians of
other confessions or
people of other faiths who sincerely respect and accept the
Society's identity and its principles insofar as differences of
faith allow. The Episcopal Conference should be consulted.
Preserving the Catholic credo and ethos
The Catholic beliefs and ethos of the Society of St. Vincent
de Paul must be preserved. The
President, Vice-President and
Spiritual Adviser should, therefore, be Roman Catholic. They
may, in certain situations depending on national
circumstances, and after
consultation with the local diocesan Bishop, be members of
churches and ecclesial communities which share the Catholic belief
in, among other issues, the real presence of Christ in the
Eucharist, the seven Sacraments and devotion to Mary.
6.6 Affiliated groups can work very
closely with us
The Society accepts the principle of
affiliated groups. These
groups consist mainly of members of
other Christian churches and ecclesial
who are attracted by the work of the
its spirituality. They are
welcome to participate in the charitable work, appropriate
Council discussions and the
fraternal life of the Society, but are not
eligible for office in the
Society. Groups from non-Christian religions may also be
6.7 Relationships with state
& other charities
When the problems they encounter are
beyond their competence or capacity, Vincentians may contact State
Agencies and other more
organizations, provided that such action helps the Society
in its struggle against injustice
and respects the spirit of the Society.
RELATIONSHIP WITH CIVIL SOCIETY ‑
7.1 The Society gives immediate
help but also seeks mid-term and long-term solutions
The Society is concerned not only with
alleviating need but
also with identifying the unjust
structures that cause it. It
is, therefore, committed to
identifying the root causes of
poverty and to contributing to
their elimination. In all its
charitable actions there should
be a search for justice; in its
struggle for justice, the
Society must keep in mind the demands of charity.
A vision of the civilization of love
Affirming the dignity of each human being as created in
God's image, and Jesus'
particular identification with those
who are excluded by society,
Vincentians envision a more
just society in which the rights,
responsibilities and development of all people are promoted.
citizens of one world, Vincentians listen to the voice of
the Church which demands their
participation in creating a
more equitable and compassionate
social order, promoting the
culture of life and the civilization of love. In this way,
the Society shares the Church's
mission to evangelize the world through visible witness, in
both actions and words.
Vision of the future
The Society's vision goes beyond the
looking towards sustainable
development and protection of the environment for the benefit
of future generations.
7.4 The practical Vincentian
to social justice
distinctive approach of Vincentians to issues of social
justice is to see them from the
perspective of those we visit who suffer from injustice.
A voice for the voiceless
The Society helps the poor and
disadvantaged speak for
themselves. When they cannot, the
Society must speak on behalf of those who are ignored.
7.6 Facing the structures of sin
injustice, inequality, poverty or exclusion are due to
unjust economic, political or
social structures or to
inadequate or unjust legislation, the Society should speak
out clearly against the situation, always with charity, with the
aim of contributing to and demanding improvements.
7.7 Striving to change attitudes
Vincentians oppose discrimination of
all kinds and work to
change the attitudes of those who view the weak or those
who are different with
prejudice, fear or scorn, attitudes which gravely wound the
dignity of others.
Society strives, with charity, to foster new attitudes of
respect and empathy for the weak,
so that all are able to
understand, recognize and defend the right of each person
to be responsible for his or her own life. The Society
cooperation and mutual love
among people of different
cultures, religions, ethnic origins
and social groups, and so
contributes to the peace and unity of all peoples.
7.8 Political independence of the
The Society does not identify with any
political party and
always adopts a non-violent approach.
is good that some members follow and fully participate in
their political vocation in such
a way that they bring
Christian values to political matters. Those members who
hold political offices will be asked, always with charity, not to hold
any mission of representation in the Society during their
term of political office.
Working with communities
The Society should work not only with
individuals in need
but also with families and
communities. It can help an excluded or deprived local
community to develop a sense of
responsibility and solidarity which leads it to improve its
economic, social or
environmental well-being, always
retaining the personal contact of
members with those who suffer.