My Broken Christ


The following reflection was shared in advance of the Lenten season to members of the Vincentian Family by Rev. Tomaž Mavrič, CM, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission in Rome, Italy on February 10, 2021.

Dear members of the Vincentian Family,

May the grace and peace of Jesus be always with us!

After the dramatic events of last year as the suffering caused by wars, natural disasters, and famine was compounded by the pandemic of COVID-19, our faith calls us to live this new year 2021 in hope, even in situations that are, humanly speaking, hopeless.

With the opening of the Lenten Season, we continue our reflection on the foundations that made Saint Vincent de Paul a “Mystic of Charity” and more specifically on his relationship, and ours, with the disfigured Christ, which we began to explore with the icon of the “Savior of Zvenigorod.”

As I wrote in last year’s Advent letter, the person of Jesus is at the heart of Vincent de Paul’s identity as a Mystic of Charity and of the Vincentian charism and spirituality. Jesus is the reason for our lives and the person whose way of thinking, feeling, talking, and acting becomes our life goal. Vincent knew the importance of a close relationship with Jesus for personal conversion and effective ministry: “Neither philosophy, nor theology, nor discourses can act in souls; Jesus Christ must be involved in this with us – or we with Him – so that we may act in Him and He in us, that we may speak as He did and in His Spirit, as He himself was in His Father, and preached the doctrine He had taught Him.[1]

If the Icon of the “Savior of Zvenigorod” invites us to contemplate the face of Jesus, this Lenten reflection invites us to a dialogue with the disfigured Jesus. Around 30 years ago, I came across a book written by a Spanish Jesuit, Ramón Cué, called, My Broken Christ. The cover of the book pictured a broken crucifix. Christ was missing a leg, His right arm, and the fingers of His left hand; He had no face, and not even a cross. That image caught my attention, and its story made me desire such a figure for myself.

My Broken Christ is about a priest who loved artwork. One day, while visiting an antique shop, he saw a sculpture, among many beautiful sculptures, pictures, and other pieces of art, that right away attracted his attention. It was this broken crucifix. The work of a well-known artist, it still had its market value despite the damage.

 It so intrigued the priest that he decided to buy it and have it restored to its original beauty. The restorer whom he approached realized that it would take much work to repair the image and thus asked for a large amount of money. The priest could not pay such a high price, so he decided to take home the broken Christ as it was.

Looking at the broken Christ back home in his room, the priest started to feel uneasy, to the point of becoming angry. In a loud voice, he asked, “Who could do such a thing to You? Who could take You so brutally from the cross? Who could disfigure Your face so terribly?”

All of a sudden, a sharp disembodied voice said, “Be quiet! You are asking too many questions.”

The penetrating voice coupled with the mutilated body hardly brought the priest peace. Still in a state of shock after hearing Christ speak, the priest wanted to make Christ feel well and said with trembling voice, “Lord, I have an idea that You will like. I will find a way to have You restored. I do not want to see You so mutilated. You will see how good You will look. You know You are worth everything. You will get a new leg, a new arm, new fingers, a new cross, and, above all, You will get a new face.”

Again, a voice was heard and Christ said forcefully, “You disappoint me. You speak too much. I forbid you to restore me!”

Surprised by the broken Christ’s energy and determination, the priest countered, “Lord, You do not understand. It will be a continuous pain for me to see You broken and mutilated. Do You not understand how You grieve me?”

The Lord answered, “That is exactly what I want to achieve. Do not restore me. When you see me this way, let us see if you will remember my brothers and sisters who suffer and if you will grieve. Let us see if the sight of me so broken and mutilated can be the symbol of the pain of others, the symbol that will cry out the pain of my second Passion in my brothers and sisters. Leave me broken! Kiss me broken!”

 The priest said, “I have a Christ without a cross. Some people may have a cross without Christ. He cannot rest without a cross, and a personal cross can only be tolerated with Christ. We started looking for a wooden cross for the broken Christ, where He can rest. We found instead our cross. Put them together, and the broken Christ will be complete. The broken Christ reposes on our cross, and we will carry the cross together.”

Still uneasy, the priest continued his intense dialogue with Christ, saying, “I would like to restore Your missing hand.” The Lord responded, “I do not want a wooden arm. I want a real hand of flesh and bone. I want you to become the hand that I am missing. You!”

 “Lord,” exclaimed the priest, “You have just one leg. You cannot even walk alone. You need help.” Christ responded, “I need to work as I did in Nazareth.” The priest said, “If You want, I am ready to accompany You to find work. However, I warn You that, in Your current state, unless You present Yourself as Christ Himself, You will never find work.”

Christ prohibited the priest from presenting Him as Christ. Together they visited many stores and businesses, but nobody offered Christ a job. Christ exclaimed with a heavy voice, “How can one say one loves Christ and with the same heart despise people looking for an honest job? I am they and they are I.”

The priest lamented, “How hard it is for me to love Christ without a face.” He spent many hours trying to find an adequate, beautiful face for his broken Christ, to ease his inner restlessness, but Christ once more said with a strong voice, “I want to remain like this, broken, without a face. Why would you like to restore me, for you or for others? Does seeing me in this deteriorated state make you feel uneasy?” Christ said more gently, “Please, accept me as I am. Accept me broken, accept me without a face.”

Christ continued, “Do you have a picture of someone you do not like, your enemy? Put the face of that person on my face, put the faces of all the most abandoned, rejected, poorest people over my face. Do you understand? I gave my life for all of them. In my face, there were all their faces. Do you understand?”

After long conversations with Christ, in the end, the priest understood Christ’s message and, in a soft voice full of longing, said, “Christ, I would like to accept Your invitation, but please, help me! Help me!”

After several years longing to find my image of a broken Christ, the day finally arrived. Approaching a building, all of a sudden, I looked to my right, and there it was: a broken Christ. I do not have any idea how the sculpture got there. I often passed in front of that building, but I never before saw any other old or broken item placed there for someone to take.

I remember my excitement and impatience, wondering if I would be allowed to have the figure. After I asked and received permission, I quickly left and took the broken Christ home. Once in my room with “my broken Christ,” I started crying. From that day on, it has never left me.

Why did I want to have a broken Christ? As the priest in the story, I would naturally prefer a beautiful, complete Christ on a nice cross that could be hung for veneration. From where, then, did this wish to find a broken Christ come? Certainly not from me. The only answer that I can find is: it came from Christ.

The broken Christ becomes a clear sign before our eyes that keeps disturbing our peace and calling us to conversion. He invites us to a continuous dialogue with Him in the here and now of the world and of our everyday relationships. This broken Christ helps us to bring ourselves to Him with our human reality, as well as with the reality of every human being.

Christ is always prepared to listen as well as suggest. He keeps challenging us, but gently and with a never-ending mercy, to answer questions like: Why do you think people disfigured me so badly? Does a broken Christ make you uncomfortable? Do broken people make you uncomfortable? What might cause people to change their attitude toward those considered disfigured? Where do you see yourself in relation to this reality?

Saint Vincent’s ongoing dialogue with Jesus led to his answers and his advice:

How beautiful it is to see poor people if we consider them in God and with the esteem in which Jesus Christ held them! If, however, we look on them according to the sentiments of the flesh and a worldly spirit, they will seem contemptible.”[2]

“ … Jesus Christ died for us, isn’t that enough to esteem a person? Jesus showed so much respect for us that He willed to die for us. By so doing, it would seem that He valued us more highly than His own Precious Blood, which He shed to redeem us, as if He were saying that He doesn’t value His Blood as highly as all the predestined…”[3]

My own broken Christ, whether before my eyes or in my thoughts, invites me to a real dialogue. May this Lenten Season help us to deepen or simply start a conversation with the broken Christ, which certainly will not leave us indifferent.

Your brother in Saint Vincent,
Tomaž Mavrič, CM
Superior General

[1] Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, translated and edited by Jacqueline Kilar, DC; and Marie Poole, DC; et al; annotated by John W. Carven, CM; New City Press, Brooklyn and Hyde Park, 1985-2014; volume XI, page 311; conference 153, “Advice to Antoine Durand.” Future references to this work will be indicated using the initials CCD, followed by the volume number, then the page number, for example, CCD XI, 311.

[2] CCD XI, 26; conference 19, “The Spirit of Faith.”

[3] CCD X, 394; conference 96, “Cordiality, respect and exclusive friendships.”

Can We Endure This Much Longer?

You may have recently seen the news that Europe’s oldest known person survived Covid-19, after having tested positive just weeks before her 117th birthday. That person, Sister Andre (Lucile) Randon, happens to be a Daughter of Charity, a member of the religious community founded by Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul in 1633. She became a nun in 1944 at the age of 40, after having lived through two world wars and the Spanish Flu pandemic. She devoted many of her years to working with children as a teacher and governess and spent over two decades working with orphans and the elderly in a hospital. Sr. Andre was quoted as saying, “I’m not afraid of dying, so give my vaccine doses to those who need them.”(1)

Her long life and generous spirit puts things into perspective and help us to recognize that this difficult period we are living through shall eventually pass.

I have heard it said that the difference between a child and an adult is that an adult knows a challenging moment will pass. If only it were that easy for us! Like a distraught child overcome by intense feelings, we often have difficulty seeing beyond our present situation. Feelings can overwhelm us, cloud our vision, and prevent our understanding the larger context. We forget that life is about more than our current reality and that time will surely change our perspective. Looking back on our lives, our thoughts about all we have experienced have certainly evolved and will do so again. Sr. Andre’s life can help remind us of this fact.

Over the course of our lives, we may fall into ruts. This may happen without our even being aware. The ruts may be habits or draining, even harmful, ways of seeing, thinking, acting, or relating with others. We may wake up days, weeks, months, or even years later, only to recognize we have gone astray and lost touch with our heart’s desire. In facing this, strong doses of humility and self-compassion are necessary and healing antidotes. Surely, in her long life, Sr. Andre learned many times of the need for forgiveness.

The examples of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac also encourage us to take a long view on life. Vincent wrote to Louise: “The spirit of God urges one gently to do the good that can be done reasonably, so that it may be done perseveringly and for a long time.”(2) Louise, meanwhile, encouraged her fellow sisters by saying: “It is not enough to begin well, one must persevere, as, I believe, you intend.”(3) Keeping this perspective in mind, Sr. Andre’s example and the words of Vincent and Louise invite us to reconsider what it really means to live a good life.

Thinking of how we might look back on our life in old age, what can we do now to be able to someday say, as St. Paul did, and Sr. Andre might, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith?”(4)

How might our perspective of our current difficult reality shift or evolve with time? What can we forgive or let go of today to start anew or better move in the direction of our deepest hopes?

1) Elian Peltier, “As she turns 117, French nun is oldest to recover from virus,” New York Times; as published in the Chicago Tribune, Thursday, February 11, 2021, p. 11.
2) Letter 58, “To Saint Louise, In Beauvais,” CCD, 1:92. See: https://‌via.library.‌‌vincentian_‌ebooks/‌25/
3) L.300, “To Sister Charlotte and Sister Françoise,” 17 March 1651, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 346. See:
4) 2 Timothy 4:7.

Reflection by: Mark Laboe, Associate Vice President, Division of Mission and Ministry

St. Josephine Bakhita: Model of Resilience, Right Relationship, and Solidarity

Today, February 8th, we celebrate the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, FDCC, a twentieth-century saint with ties to the spirit of the Vincentian family. Josephine was canonized in 2000, and we still have much to learn about her life.

Born in Sudan in 1869, Josephine was kidnapped and enslaved as a young child. After being sold numerous times, she was trafficked to Italy, where she worked as a caregiver for a family’s young child. The child attended a school run by the Canossian Daughters of Charity, and it was here that Josephine claimed her self-agency. She took her case to court and, with the support of the Daughters, advocated for her own freedom. In 1896, she took vows and became a Canossian Daughter of Charity.1

Unlike many of our own Vincentian family members, Josephine’s pivotal moment of awakening was not growing aware of the hardships of those on the margins. Rather, Josephine became aware of her own power and the strength of her own voice.

Josephine is the patron saint of both Sudan and of the survivors of human trafficking. Her feast day marks the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. In a world wherein markets depend on exploitation, modern day slavery, and prison labor, Josephine’s story reminds us that we are an interconnected, global human family. As consumers, the decisions we make impact the lives of our kin around the globe. Josephine calls us to see those relationships with her words, “We must love everyone…we must be compassionate!”2

By shopping second-hand, by prioritizing Fair Trade and ethically sourced goods, and by demanding corporate responsibility, each of us can take small steps toward ending modern day slavery. As we celebrate Josephine’s feast day, take a moment to reflect on the ways you feel called to honor her story.

  • What is one way you can commit to material simplicity and solidarity in the week ahead?
  • What is one step you can take to become more aware of human trafficking in our world today?
  • How can you use your voice to advocate for change and defend human dignity?

1 The Canossian Daughters of Charity, also called Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor, were founded in 1808 at Verona, Italy, by Saint Maddalena Gabriella di Canossa (1774-1835, canonized 1988). Their work was centered on Christian doctrine and in the care of poor children, in hospitals, and in education. Canossa was familiar with the Vincentian spirit and had planned to found this institute in collaboration with a Lady of Charity, who changed her mind and abandoned the project. The mission of this institute is to serve the poor. Other communities evolved from its foundation include the Institute of the Holy Family of Leopoldina Naudet; the Minims of Charity of Mary the Most Sorrowful Mother of Teodora Campestrini; the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of Maria Bucchi; and the Daughters of the Church of Oliva Bonaldo. Generalate: Via della Stazione di Ottavia, 70; 00135 Rome, Italy.

See also, Betty Ann McNeil, D.C., The Vincentian Family Tree: A Genealogical Study (V.S.I., 1996), p. 25, n. 25. Online at:

2 Quote drawn from a webpage celebrating the life of Sr. Josephine, and sponsored by the Canossian Daughters of Charity:

Reflection by: Emily LaHood-Olsen, Ministry Coordinator for Service Immersions, Division of Mission and Ministry


Service, Faith, Love: Building Community in Times of Division

Whether studying historical trends or contemporary issues there are recurring tensions in the lives of religious and spiritual people that become apparent. Those who study such concerns can experience this in their own lives as well. One such tension is often identified with a “conservative” versus “liberal” or “traditionalist” versus “modernist” worldview. This is a tension between emphasizing individual beliefs and spiritual practices as opposed to service to others or social change. Such binaries can contribute to academic study or understanding, and people may find themselves drawn clearly towards one side of the spectrum, especially in times of high polarization. However, life experience often reveals the need for a balance to our approach, as what may seem relevant during one stage of life may seem completely irrelevant during another.

When Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac founded the Daughters of Charity in seventeenth-century France, the dominant view was that an ideal environment for a young woman’s spiritual flourishing was the cloistered life of a convent sheltered from the negative influences of mainstream public life. The vision for the Daughters was a different one, however. Vincent and Louise believed that direct service to the most vulnerable and marginalized in society, the sick and the poor, was an ideal way to encounter God. Yet, this vision was in no way one that abandoned or denigrated spiritual practices or religious devotion.

February 7 marks the feast day of one of the most famous Daughters of Charity, Blessed Rosalie Rendu. Rendu (1786-1856) lived during one of the most volatile times in French history—a post-Revolutionary period marked by violent conflict and the oppression of different ideologies and social groups, privileged and poor, religious and secular. Her life was a model of commitment to serving those in need during such times of upheaval. She was known to emphasize the importance of one’s attitude towards others as much as the practical aid being offered. In addition, she was known for her religious devotion and for finding that strength in her work. A contemporary quoted her as saying, “Never do I make my meditation so well as I do on the street.”1

Today we face challenges similar to those faced by Vincentian figures like Rosalie Rendu. What is the relationship between communal service and our individual spiritual lives? How do we respond to systemic injustice, to human suffering and need, to societal polarization, conflict and even violence? How do we stay connected to God in the face of such difficult realities? What is our relationship with God and with those on the margins?

The Vincentian Mission is a living legacy. Its key historical figures provide us with inspiration and values that guide our way. In determining how to answer the challenges of today and tomorrow our knowledge of Vincentian history asks compelling questions of us, as much as it may provide us answers.

1 Louise Sullivan, D.C., Sister Rosalie Rendu: A Daughter of Charity on Fire with Love for the Poor (Chicago: Vincentian Studies Institute, 2006), p. 115. Available at: https://‌via.‌library.‌depaul.‌edu/‌‌vincentian_ebooks/5/ Sometimes quoted as “Never have I prayed so well as in the streets.” See Armand de Melun, Vie de la sœur Rosalie, 218.

Reflection by: Abdul-Malik Ryan, Muslim Chaplain and Assistant Director of Religious Diversity and Pastoral Care

The Division of Mission and Ministry and UMMA, the Muslim student group at DePaul, invite the entire DePaul community to join us in our annual Fast a Thon on February 11. All those willing and able are encouraged to experience fasting as a form of worship. We will gather at sunset to reflect upon the experience and upon a number of compelling questions.

To register for the Fast a Thon, go to:

In addition to speakers focusing on the practice of fasting in different faith traditions, we will hear from DePaul alum, MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, 2018 Opus Prize Winner, and internationally celebrated activist Rami Nashashibi. He will discuss the challenges of today, his new musical project focused on social justice activism and healing, “This Love Thing,” and practical activism around the issue of police violence.

Find out more about “This Love Thing” at: For more about Rami Nashashibi’s work as executive director of the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), see: https://‌www.‌imancentral.‌org/.

Photo from This Love Thing project:

Seeds of the Mission: Guillermo Campuzano, CM

Global Vincentian Family 

Did you know that over 300 religious and lay organizations across the world are considered part of the “Vincentian Family?” A movement that started in countryside churches in France has spread for 400 years and is now present in over 100 countries across all six habited continentsThere are over 4,000 Vincentian priests across the world1, 14,000 Daughters of Charity serve in almost 100 countries2, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul has over 1,500,000 volunteers worldwide.3  

DePaul University is just one of the many branches of the Vincentian Family Tree. Other branches include the Sisters of Charity of Miyazaki in Japan, the Conference of Frederic Ozanam for Youth in ChileAdamson University in the Philippines, the Daughters of Devine Love in Nigeria, and the Servants of the Poor in Portugal, to name a few.4 Over the last 400 years, these religious orders and lay organizations have grown and spread out across the globe addressing the specific needs of the communities they serve. While there are differences across these branches of the Vincentian Family, they can all trace their roots back to Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. 

A Legacy of Advocacy  

While the Vincentian Family may be more well known for its ministries that directly serve those on the margins, we also have a long, storied tradition of working towards systemic change and advocating with those we serveVincent de Paul used his power and relationships witthe nobility in France to connect resources to the most marginalized. In forming the Congregation of the Mission he worked from within to reform a corrupt Catholic Church. 

Our Vincentian tradition shows us that, “effective charity requires attention to justice and engagement with our social reality. True justice requires that charity must care for those […] passed over and unseen by the dominant culture.”5 

In the late-19th Century, the Daughters of Charity in Los Angeles, California helped secure proper funding for healthcare access in minority communities during smallpox epidemics. Mexican, Native American, and Asian communities did not trust the local government to supply adequate healthcare in the times of the epidemics, but the Daughters of Charity used a combination of direct service and advocacy to serve those communities. 

“In Los Angeles, the Daughters of Charity stepped to the fore to provide service during the smallpox epidemics. Their reputation for kind, caring, and effective nursing encouraged sick Angelenos to enter the quarantine hospital, isolating patients and hopefully retarding the spread of the disease. In knowing city officials needed them, the sisters utilized their political leverage to provide the best care possible, insisting that the city improve conditions in the [quarantine hospitals] and grant adequate funding for the sick poor.”6 

As Fr. Edward Udovic notes, “whether in the seventeenth or twenty-first centuries, Vincentians have understood that some form of organized local, national, and international political advocacy for specific systemic poverty reduction efforts has to be incorporated into their efforts.7 Whether we are working at the United Nations to end homelessness or pushing for education reform at the Chicago Board of Education, advocating for social justice with those on the margins remains a core tenet of the Vincentian mission.  

McNeil, Betty Ann D.C., “The Vincentian Family Tree: A Genealogical Study” (1996). Vincentian Digital Books. 6.  

Clark, Meghan J. Ph.D. (2012) “The Complex but Necessary Union of Charity and Justice: Insights from the Vincentian Tradition for Contemporary Catholic Social Teaching,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 31 : Iss2 , Article 1. Available at: 

Gunnell, Kristine Ashton Ph.D. (2011) “Sisters and Smallpox: The Daughters of Charity as Advocates For the Sick Poor in Nineteenth-Century Los Angeles,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 30 : Iss2 , Article 1. Available at:  

Udovic, Edward R. C.M., Ph.D. (2008) “”Our good will and honest efforts.” Vincentian Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Efforts,” Vincentian Heritage Journal: Vol. 28 : Iss2 , Article 5. Available at:  


Health as Treasure

As dawn replaces darkness in Chicago and lake effect clouds rise, patrons stand on cold pavement six feet apart to order hot coffee along quasi-empty streets with boarded-up businesses. The wind bites customers who shiver as they stand waiting under the gloomy sky. What do they recall about this time last year? What has changed?

Filled with nostalgia, memories may surface of bustling commerce and camaraderie—the simple enjoyments of life prior to COVID19. Then we lived with some predictability, although our sensitivities were numbed by expectations entrenched in the social constructs of yesteryear. We had hoped a new era would be more kind, just, equitable and inclusive, but life changed unexpectedly. An invisible enemy destroyed normalcy. Forced to separate, isolate, quarantine, and trace contacts, an unknown adversary began to shatter families, relationships, and communities, forcing us to acknowledge our vulnerability. Swiftly, security morphed into insecurity and anxiety, heightened by fear of the deadly danger. Modern society is neither the first nor will be the last to respond to such a challenge. Nevertheless, uncertainty and dread have bred inescapable apprehension.

“There is nothing that bothers me more than uncertainty,” acknowledged Vincent de Paul, who was keenly aware of the unpredictability of life changing events and their impact on individuals and families.(1) Louise de Marillac encountered victims of the plague in France, prompting her to advise the Daughters of Charity to “take good care of yourself amid the great dangers.”(2) She imposed travel restrictions in one town and reported that the Sisters there had “stopped the visiting of the sick and the schools.”(3)

As a Vincentian community gathered for the sake of the mission, we are called to care for one another and ourselves. In order to overcome quarantine fatigue, “we must go forward without becoming discouraged.”(4) We need to acknowledge our current reality of living during a global pandemic. Louise knew the value of self-care: “I have great need of a few days to think about myself and be renewed.”(5) As those patrons who sip their morning coffee and savor the aroma, recall Vincentian wisdom: “Take good care of your health.”(6) “Health is the most precious treasure of life.”(7)

Take care of yourself. Take care of one another. Take Care DePaul!

Reflection Questions

  1. How do I respond when dark clouds besiege my life?
  2. What enables me to summon the courage to go forward?
  3. What must I do for optimum self-care, or to be renewed?

1) 175, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, CCD, 1:240.

2) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

3) Ibid.

4) 1307, Vincent de Paul to René Alméras, (3 January 1651), CCD, 138-40.

5) L.4, Louise de Marillac to Vincent de Paul, 4 September c. 1634, Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 10.

6) 411, Vincent de Paul to Louise de Marillac, 12 [December] 1639, CCD, 1:595-6.

7) A.92, (On the Duties of the Motherhouse), Spiritual Writings of Louise de Marillac, 810.


Reflection by Sr. Betty Ann

Celebrating the Vincentian Legacy of Frédéric Ozanam

Each year on September 9th, the worldwide Vincentian family celebrates the Feast Day of Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), the nineteenth-century French, lay Catholic leader, widely considered the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Society is now an international confederation present in 150 countries with over 800,000 members in 47,000 Conferences and 1.5 million volunteers and collaborators. It serves the needs of over 30 million people all over the world.

Ozanam was a French literary scholar, lawyer, journalist, and equal rights advocate in Paris. He was recognized as a skilled writer, orator, thinker, social activist, and model of faith oriented toward outward action. Following the practices of Saint Vincent de Paul and inspired by his faith, Ozanam served the poor and destitute of Paris. He especially saw the power of bringing students together to study Vincentian principles and engage with those who were marginalized and poor.

While a student of law and literature in Paris, he founded the Society in 1833 with a group of friends who gathered regularly to grow in their faith and visit the poor. With the help of the older Emmanuel Bailly, who brought his own experience of socially engaged Catholicism, they provided vouchers for bread and wood to those in need. Inspired by the gospel message of love, they provided instruction and gave of their time and presence to serve the disadvantaged.

Later, as a professor at the prestigious Sorbonne, Ozanam became a renowned scholar and intellectual. He dedicated his life to understanding what Catholicism offered civilization. Committed to the principles of democracy and social justice, he became a journalist at L’Ère Nouvelle (The New Era), advocating for social reform and a governmental regime of liberty, equality, and fraternity that included the less fortunate. Frédéric was also devoted to his wife, Amélie, and their daughter Marie, whom he loved dearly. His integration of his professional life with his personal and spiritual life, along with his simple yet open style of engagement offers us a model of servant leadership today. Frédéric Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II during World Youth Day in 1997.


In the summer of 2020, DePaul University renamed one of its residence halls in his honor.

To learn more about Frédéric’s legacy and his contributions to understanding our shared Vincentian mission, explore some of the following Vincentian Heritage resources:

Blog Reflections:


Articles featured in the Vincentian Heritage Journal: