August 14: International Women’s Day in the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

by | Aug 11, 2022 | News, Society of St. Vincent de Paul | 3 comments

Third anniversary celebration of Amélie Ozanam’s Birth

This is the third year that the International Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) celebrates Women’s Day, on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Amélie Ozanam (wife of founder Frederic Ozanam).

This day is celebrated in honor of each and every SSVP woman who has taken part in the ministry of Conferences, bringing their love to their neighbours and their faith to the most needy.

Amélie Ozanam, remembered especially on this day, is a clear example and role model of selflessness, service, and unconditional love for God and the mission of the SSVP, always supporting her husband to make his dream come true: to build a wonderful network of charity with his colleagues. Thanks to her, much of Frédéric Ozanam’s legacy– his writings and documents– have been preserved.

There were other women who were key to the inception and expansion of the SSVP: Blessed Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity who took part in the foundation of the first Conference, brought the Vincentian Charism to that conference, and taught them how to visit the most vulnerable in the Mouffetard district (Paris) in their homes.

At first, due to the traditions of that time, SSVP Conferences were made up of men only. Through the years we have witnessed how Conferences worldwide have been gradually opened up to women in all fields, in harmony and equity according to our belief that we are all God’s children.

As a matter of fact, the SSVP Rule spells out that “members meet as brothers and sisters, with Christ in the midst of them, in Conferences that are genuine communities of faith and love, of prayer and action”, and that “the entire Society is a true and unique worldwide Community of Vincentian friends”.

An historical example of the vindication of the role of women at the SSVP is Celestina Scarabeli who, on January 10th, 1856, founded a women’s branch in Bologna as a result of her fervent yearning to feel Vincentian.

Nowadays, women are vital to the continuity of SSVP Conferences around the world. There are great testimonies of women stepping up their commitment and Vincentian mission; for instance, the International Secretary General, Marie Françoise Salesiani-Payet, the first woman in the CGI’s history holding this office, being in charge of, among many other duties, the management of Paris’ international headquarters and representing our institution at the United Nations in Geneva.

“Women, absent during the establishment of the first conferences, soon joined their fathers and spouses and helped them with their home visits to various families. They observed the same Rule and yet the customs of the era did not allow for men and women to participate in the same conference. Another century would pass until the groups were combined (October 20, 1957)!”

– Marie-Françoise Salesiani-Payet, Presentation de la Société de Saint Vincent de Paul, in the Regional Assembly of Piamonte, Turín, March 27, 2011

On the occasion of this day, our President General International stated: “I am most obliged for the work undertaken by all SSVP women, especially those taking the lead of Councils, Conferences and Special Works. My congratulations for their impressive devotion and love”.

Dear SSVP Women, best wishes on your day!



  1. Jeanne M Harper

    How wonderful to acknowledge the work of women in the Society. My first friends in the Society for two beautiful Marys – one from Chicago- Mary Van Wazer and one from Milwaukee – Mary Steppe. They provided me with guidance and were leadership examples in my young life in the Society.

  2. Jeanne M Harper

    How wonderful that women in the Society are celebrated. I was fortunate to have two women leaders in the Society of USA — Mary Steppe – Milwaukee Diocesan Council and Mary Van Wazer – Chicago Diocesan Council. These two women guided and led me into SSVdP leadership roles — they were beside me for my six-year term as National Vice President of the North Central Region. They were gifts in my life! I celebrate their friendship and hope I can continue to pass on their gifts of leadership to young women joining the Society now.
    Deep faith, open heart charity, and hope for the lives of Those We Serve!!


    Wonderful to hear about Marie Francoise position in the international Society of St. Vincent de Paul. One day we shall have a woman as a President General of our Society. God bless her with wisdom and knowledge to play her role in the Society. God bless all the women in the Society.