170 Years of Compassionate Service: Celebrating the Founding of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Australia

“I come that they may have life, and have it to its full.” John 10.10

March 5 marked the 170th anniversary of the first Conference meeting in Australia.

On that day in 1854, less than 6 months after the death of Frederic Ozanam, and just 21 years after the Society’s establishment in Paris, a Conference gathered in St Francis Catholic Church in Lonsdale St, Melbourne. The parish priest, an immigrant from England, called the gathering and was appointed as President.

There’s little evidence that Fr Gerald Ward had any previous involvement with the Society before arriving in Australia. However, as several Conferences had been established in England by the time he left, he would have no doubt been aware of its activities. He brought with him a great concern and compassion for people in need, a great love of the works of St Vincent de Paul, and an awareness of the work of the Society.

Having witnessed the remarkably rapid spread of the Society overseas – by then in 28 countries with over 1500 Conferences – he would have considered it a natural progression for it to come to Australia. He later suggested that his main reason why he formed the Conference was for the protection of children who were orphans.

Sadly, the Society did not grow much past this first gathering and with the untimely death of Gerald Ward a few years after at the age of 52, it was thought the Society’s activities had dissipated, till the initiatives of Charles O’Neill in Sydney nearly 30 years later.

The Society in Victoria is celebrating this remarkable milestone with Mass at St Francis, Lonsdale Street and other resources available via this link.


Cheers and blessings,


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