Beginning with the establishment of the Community in Paris, Vincentians have worked in parishes. Saint Vincent himself had been a pastor and, as superior general, accepted eight parish foundations for his community. While the principal purpose of the American founding document was to establish a seminary as soon as possible, it was mutually agreed that Vincentians would help in parishes, giving retreats and missions, until enough priests had been prepared by the confreres in their seminary.
Throughout our history, the Vincentians active role in helping establish parishes has led to significant dedication, on the part of the laity, to supporting the mission of the Community to evangelize the poor.
Parish life before the time of St. Vincent was very different from what it is today. Parish missions were intermittent and served to provide seasonal sermons, especially during Advent and Lent. Their purpose was primarily penitential. Saint Vincent simplified and systematized the parish missions – they became fundamentally catechetical in nature for the rural poor in France.
The Vincentian parish mission fostered fuller participation in the sacramental and community life of the local church. When Bishop DuBourg invited the Vincentians to establish themselves in his diocese, they agreed to staff a seminary and attend to the pastoral care of his often spiritually neglected flock.
ST. VINCENT DEPAUL SOCIETY
Blessed Frederic Ozanam began the Society in France for men pledging themselves to personal works of charity. The first American Society was formed in 1845 in St. Louis. Today, active lay participation in parishes reaches millions of people each year with the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter.
The Colorado Vincentian Volunteers provides opportunities for charitable work and faith formation to young adults from across the country. This program was begun 30 years ago and volunteers continue to walk in the footsteps of those they serve, learning to see the face of Jesus in the poor and marginalized.