Society of St.Vincent de Paul in India (SSVP)
1. ORIGIN OF THE SOCIETY
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an International, fraternal organization of Catholic lay people, men and women, who practice Christianity by helping those in need on a person to person basis and in a spirit of Charity and Justice.
The Society was founded in Paris, in 1833, by Frederic Ozanam and a small group of fellow students. Ozanam was then a 20 year old student of Law at the Sorbonne University where he was challenged to prove the practical value of his Christian beliefs. With his friends, he formed a small group who set about helping the oppressed and the poor. The essence of the Society is personal service and commitment.
The Society is named after St. Vincent de Paul(1581-1660) whose life was devoted to helping the underprivileged. He is the patron of Christian Charity.
The aim of the Society is to provide a means whereby members can practice Christianity by loving their neighbours in the person of the needy.
Vincentians show this love, compassion and understanding by giving themselves-their concern, their friendship, their time, their talents and their belongings-to help people regardless of caste, creed, colour or political belief.
Help is not confined to the needy close at hand. It may be given to persons oversees through the agency of fellow Vincentians there. Thus the aid is never impersonal. Help may be in the form of materials, goods or in the form of counseling, moral support, relief from loneliness, or in referring people to other agencies or specialist organizations. It will vary according to the resources of the members and should be adapted to local requirements and changing conditions.
The type of work is not restricted, provided the element of personal involvement of the member is present.
Although the basic work is helping people individually, the Society encourages self-help and other welfare projects and sponsors group or community special works.
In helping others, Vincentians do not attempt to preach or convert. Nor do they attach conditions to their aid. Immense care is taken to preserve the dignity of the person helped. There should be no trace of patronizing attitude.
The Society cooperates with other organizations, religious and secular, to achieve its aims.
The Society is concerned not only with relieving poverty and suffering, but also with redressing situations that cause them. If these result from injustice, then the Society is concerned that justice be attained.
2. SOCIETY IN INDIA
The Society was introduced into India in 1852, when a young priest of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, Fr.Francois Joseph Thirion, set up a men's Conference and a women's Conference in Pondicherry. Both Conferences were engaged in a variety of charitable activities, including the management of a leprosy home. However, they were not aggregated and the records show that they ceased to function by 1873. The Society was revived in Pondicherry in 1904.
Earlier, in 1859, a few Conferences were established in Calcutta but were only aggregated some years later. The Conferences of St. Francis Xavier and St.Thomas in Calcutta were aggregated in 1866, and the Conferences of Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Rosary in 1869. A Conference was also started at Belgaum, Karnataka in 1860 by the Irish Fusiliers.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was officially started in India in 1863, when the following Conferences in Bombay were aggregated: Our Lady of Health, Cavel; St. Teresa, Girgaum; St. Peter, Bandra; St.Joseph, Umerkhadi;Our Lady of Victories, Mahim, and St. Anne, Mazagaon and the Bombay Particular Council was instituted.
Father Leo Meurin, S.J. (later Bishop Meurin) laid the foundation of the Society in Bombay. With his tremendous dedication, zeal and love for the Society, he was instrumental in starting Conferences in a number of parishes in Bombay city and suburbs within a year of the establishment of the first Conference in 1862.
From Bombay and Calcutta, where the main foundations were laid, the Society gradually spread to other parts of India and by 1900 Conferences had been established in Poona, Trivandrum, Kozhikode, Secundrabad, Bangalore and Allepey. The Conference of St. Francis Xavier, Poona was aggregated in 1867. The Conference of St. Joseph, Palayam, was established in 1878. It was the first Conference to be established in Kerala, followed by the Conferences of Mother of God, Kozhikode, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Allepey, which were aggregated in 1881 and 1903 respectively.
3. NATIONAL COUNCIL OF INDIA
The next milestone in the development of the Society in India was reached in 1953, when the National Council of India, then known as the Superior Council of India, was formed in Bombay .Bro. J.B. Fernandez was elected its first President. With the establishment of the National Council of India, the process of reorganization and development of the Society was set in motion and several new Central Councils, mainly in Kerala were formed to consolidate and animate the work of Conferences. The Society is represented in most of the Indian States.
Particularly noteworthy has been the development of the Society in Kerala where the largest concentration of conferences and Councils in the country is found. The development of the Society in Tamil Nadu and in several other regions has also been progressive. The National Council of India has recently established Conferences in the North Eastern Regions of India. Translation of the Manual into various regional languages has been brought out for the benefit of non-English speaking members.
The number of active members in India, as on, March 31, 2012 was 61, 861 in 6,746 Conferences, which were coordinated by 605 area Councils, 77 Central Councils and the National Council of India. These figures illustrate the remarkable progress the Society has achieved in the last decade.
4. NEWS BULLETIN
The first Indian Bulletin of the Society was introduced in December 1984. The Bulletin was replaced by a news letter in 1976, and reintroduced in 1980 and renamed as 'Reach Out' in September 2000.This publication is serving as a tool for disseminating information on the Society.
5. WEBSITE (www.ssvpindia.org)
The website of the National Council of India was launched at the Goa AGM in September, 2003 and continues to provide valuable information about the activities of the Society in India, to Vincentians within India and abroad.
From 1963 onwards, the Society in India continued to grow and developed rapidly, helped no doubt increasingly in its path of progress by the Twinning Scheme introduced by the Council General in 1960. Twinning envisages a bond in prayer, communication and financial assistance between Twins. Much good has been accomplished through the Twinning Scheme. It has not only been an important instrument of expansion of the Society in India, but has also been of great value in sustaining and promoting work of the twinned Indian Conferences and contributing to their continuation and healthy establishment. In retrospect, India's twinning links began in 1960 when five Conferences in India w3ere Twinned with the then Metropolitan Central Council of New South Wales, Australia. That was just a small step in the history of the Twinning links between India and the developed countries. Twinning has continued to grow year after year.
The position as on March, 31, 2012, showed that .3300 Conferences in India were twinned with the developed countries, mainly England and Wales, Australia, The Netherlands and France. Twinning links also exists with Italy, USA and Canada. A beginning was made in 1975 with council to Council twinning.
To improve the social and economic status of the poor families, very generous and continuing financial assistance has been made available by the Society in Australia, England and Wales, Netherlands, Scotland and France for the establishment of self-help and other welfare projects for the betterment and uplift of the poor in India, and for the various educational schemes. A great number of major and minor projects have been set up over the years by Conferences and Councils in India.
The projects implemented by the Society in India are Tailoring and embroidery classes, Basic Technical Training Centers, Commercial Classes, Handicraft Centers, Coir and Mat making Centers, Book-binding Centers, Agricultural Projects, Distribution of Goats and cows, Knitting of Fishing Nets, Housing for the homeless, Health care centers, Home for the Aged and Orphans, Community Weddings, computer Centers, Eye and Medical Camps, Blood and Eye donations, Fish and vegetable Vending, Garmin Banks,etc.The list is indeed a long one.
8. EDUCATIONAL SCHEMES
Cultural misery is the root cause of miseries experienced in the spiritual and temporal spheres. Education is the sole remedy for all these miseries including cultural, spiritual and temporal. Hence, education is the most [potent and permanent means for removing poverty and making the poor and downtrodden community self-sufficient. By education, the poor will be relieved from poverty, not only in this generation, but in future generations too. Moreover, by education, the self respect and dignity of the poor will improve a lot. So, in the community their status will also improve like others. Considering all these aspects, the Society in India, gives much importance to the education of poor children.
VIDYAJOTHI PROGRAMME for ADOPTION of STUDENTS for the purpose of education is in memory of Great Jubilee 2000. Under this scheme, each and every Conference in India has to adopt at least one student from a very poor family, who is not likely to go for education without proper guidance, motivation and assistance. Adoption for education is a comprehensive programme , consisting of motivation for students and parents, follow-up, securing admissions, liaison with teachers and institutions , arranging tuitions (if needed )etc. So, as on 31 March 2012 more than 6000 students have been adopted all over India, for education under this scheme.
To support the education of poor students in India, the scholarships like Technical Training Scholarships for those, who are doing technical courses with three- year duration, Vocational Training Scholarships, Assist A Student Scholarships, Higher Educational Scholarships for Engineering and Medical students and Vidya Jothi Scholarships for the students adopted under Vidya Jothi Scheme are awarded with the sponsorship of Overseas Councils of Australia, England and Wales, Netherlands and Scotland.
9. JEEVAN JYOTI HOME FOR THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED AT BARIPADA
This prestigious project of the National Council of India was instituted in the year 2000 in commemoration of Great Jubilee 2000 at Baripada, Orissa. The Home was commissioned on May 5b 2001. As on date the Home is running with 45 inmates.
10. NATIONAL PRESIDENTS
Since the establishment of the National Council of India in 1953, the National Presidents have been
Bro.J.B. Fernandes 1953-1961
Bro.J I A Pinto 1961-1962
Bro.Alfred D'Souza 1962-1968
Bro.Bennet D'Souza 1968-1974
Bro.Frank Silveira 1974-1982
Bro.Abraham Kuriyape 1982-1987
Bro.Bennet D'Souza 1987- 1988 ( in charge )
Bro.G. Thangaraju Nadar 1993-1998
Bro.P. V. Alexander 1998- 2003
Bro. T. Joseph Pandian 2003-2009
Bro.V. M. J. Balaswamy 2009-
11. GOLDEN JUBILEE OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL
Golden Jubilee of the National Council of India was celebrated during 2003-04 with the theme of 'Re-capture the spirit of the Founder'. All over India, seminars, spiritual formation programmes and competitions were conducted by Vincentians to make them aware of the aims and objectives of the principal founder Bl. Frederic Ozanam.The Society all over the world is celebrating the bi-centenary of the birth of Bl. Frederic Ozanam during 2012-13. In India also, all the Conferences and Councils are conducting various programmes for the poor to mark the bi-centenary celebration.
International Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP)
SSVP, the largest lay association of the Catholic Church was founded in1833 at Paris, France, by Frederic Ozanam (1813- 1853, Blessed 1996) and his friends (Emmanuel Bailly, Paul Lamche, Jules Devaux, Auguste Le Taillandier and Frangoise Lallier) with the collaboration and support of Sister Rosalie Rendu, D.C., (1786-1856). Juridically, it is a private association Members, men and women, are united by spiritual bonds Their aim is to serve people corporally and spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering. Activities include members witnessing to God's love by embracing all works of charity and justice The Society collaborates with other people of good will in relieving need and addresses its causes, making no distinction in those served, because in them Vincentians see the face of Christ. It has approximately 870,000 members who serve in 130 countries. (Headquarters of the International Council of the Confederation is located in Paris -Rue de Londres, 6 Paris, France). The society was officially started in India in 1863.