On July 8th and 18th, 2020, we will be celebrating the birthday of three of the seven co-founders of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP). On July 8th, we will mark Felix Clavé’s birthday and on July 18th, that of our beloved founders Jules Devaux and Paul Lamache.
The three of them effectively contributed to create, along with the other four colleagues (Le Taillandier, Bailly de Surcy, Ozanam and Lallier), the first “Conference of Charity” which, a few years later, grew in number and effectiveness, covering all continents, practicing evangelical charity and bringing the message of Christ to the poorest.
Pierre-Emmanuel-Félix Clavé (1811-1853) was, among the seven founders, the least known. He moved to Paris in 1831 where he met Ozanam and Bailly de Surcy. Following the expansion of the first Conference, Clavé became president of St. Philip du Roule Conference in Paris. Being a man of letters and law, he published several works, including a compilation of several poems and a book on Pope Pius IX. He worked in Algeria and Mexico. He married Marie-Louise Sorg in 1847 and had no children. His name was unjustly involved in a legal case, being object of blackmail and false accusations, strongly affecting his reputation. As a result, his mental health was weakened, which led to his death at the age of 42. It is worth remembering that the year 2020 is the International Themed Year of Felix Clavé.
Jules-François-Louis Devaux (1811-1880) was the son of a doctor. At the age of 20, he went to Paris to study medicine at the Sorbonne. In 1833, at the Conference of Charity, Devaux was elected the first treasurer of the Society. He was the one who put the group in touch with Sister Rosalie Rendu (Daughter of Charity), who showed them how to interact with the poor. Having completed his medical studies, Jules Devaux left Paris in 1839 to settle in Normandy. He practiced medicine in Honfleur. He traveled all over Europe, especially in Germany, where he tried to found a Conference in Munich. He married Louise Alice Pasquet in 1848, and had only one child. He died at 69. Devaux will honored in 2021 and the Society will take time to reflect on his life and his work.
Paul Lamache (1810-1892) was the oldest founder. He moved to Paris to study law at the Sorbonne, as did Ozanam and other founders. In 1832, Lamache met Ozanam. He wrote many articles for different magazines and other media of the time, taking an active part in debates. He was the first Catholic writer to declare himself against slavery. At the end of his law studies, Lamache married Henriette d’Humbersin in 1844 and had five children. Lamache was also a scholar of education. He was rector and a teacher in three cities (Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Grenoble). Lamache received the “Cross of the Legion of Honor”, as did his sister Rosalie, Lallier and Ozanam. Lamache died at 82 in Grenoble (Switzerland). He was the focus of last year’s International Themed Year (2019).
The birthday of the other four founders are as follows: Le Taillandier (January 28), Bailly de Surcy (March 9), Ozanam (April 23) and Lallier (June 22). “The more we know about the life of our founders, the more knowledgeable we will be about the institutional role we play in being part of the beloved SSVP today,” stressed our President General and fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira.