Catholic Free Press

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  • Sep
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Society’s founder remembered

Posted By September 12, 2013 | 12:55 pm | Lead Story #3

By Tanya Connor

The Catholic faith was viewed as the enemy of social and scientific progress. The government was anti-clerical and secularistic. It was “not terribly unlike our own times.”
This was the climate in 19th century France.
Enter Frederic Ozanam, who consecrated his life as a layman to the service of the truth of the faith. He lived out the teachings of St. John the Evangelist: “If someone who has worldly means and sees his brother or sister in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not only in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (1 Jn. 3: 17-18).
Bishop McManus told these stories in his homily at a Mass Sunday at St. Paul Cathedral which celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“He started the Society in times that were very hard times – the Church was under a lot of criticism,” as it is today, said Frances E. Pike, executive director of the diocesan St. Vincent de Paul Society. “We’re trying to encourage people, by acts of kindness, to come back to the Church, to once again start caring for our neighbor. That’s what St. Vincent de Paul was all about.”
Songs written by Raymond Sickinger, a long-time Vincentian, and sung at the Mass were “In the Arms of St. Vincent” and “To Lead a Better Life,” she said.
A banner of Blessed Frederic Ozanam hung in the church during the Mass and a banner of St. Vincent de Paul, under whose patronage he put the society, hung in the Cenacle, where a reception was held afterwards.
Mrs. Pike said about 100 Vincentians from the three districts in the diocese – North, South and Central – attended the cathedral’s regularly scheduled Mass for this celebration of their founder’s birth. She said Blessed Frederic Ozanam was born April 23, 1813, but his feast day is Sept. 9.
“We’re praying for his canonization,” she said.
“We remember what Frederic Ozanam did for us, starting the Society and giving us an example,” said Father William E. Champlin, spiritual adviser for the diocese’s Vincentians and pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Westminster. He said it was a wonderful celebration of a significant day in the Society’s history.
Bishop McManus linked Blessed Frederic Ozanam with St. Paul, using the day’s second reading (Phlm 9-10, 12-17).
This book of the Bible is a letter Paul wrote to Philemon, asking him to welcome back his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a brother in Christ.
This was revolutionary in those days, not because Paul was an abolitionist as such, but because he was a believer, Bishop McManus said. With baptism, social differences cease to exist; people become brothers and sisters with spiritual equality, he said. This was at the heart of the life of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, he said.
He said it was providential they were celebrating the 200th anniversary of Blessed Ozanam’s birth during the Year of Faith, because the year’s purpose is to invite all the baptized and confirmed to take part in the new evangelization.
Blessed Ozanam’s gift was his belief that spreading the Gospel and building the Church is to bring the Person of Christ to others, “especially those less fortunate than ourselves,” he said.
“To him, faith without charity made absolutely no sense,” he said.
“The poor are the face of Christ,” the bishop quoted from Frederic Ozanam’s writings. “They are, for us, the images of that God we do not see, and since we know not how to love in another manner, we must love God in his people.”
Through the Eucharist Catholics enter into communion with Christ and others; it gives them the ability to see Christ in the poor, naked and imprisoned, he said. The Eucharist binds them together, whether they are rich or poor, young or old. It is their hope for future glory in heaven.

Those interested in helping people in need through the St. Vincent de Paul Society can contact the central office to volunteer at the thrift shop in Worcester or to find out who to contact in their area. Throughout the diocese there are parishes with St. Vincent de Paul conferences which give direct aid, doing home visits to learn and then meet a variety of needs. Frances Pike can be reached at the central office at or 508-752-4232.