1617 was a decisive year in the life of a young priest named Vincent de Paul.
It was then, while acting as chaplain to the de Gondi family that he came to realise how ignorant the poor people of the French countryside were about their faith.
And not just the poor, alot of priests were ignorant about the basics of their faith and responsibilities of their vocation. Mme. de Gondi had taken to writing down the sacramental formula for absolution and handing it to the priests before she went to confession. If she didn’t, more often than not they mumbled their way through it. If they did not know the basics how would they teach their parishioners? Not only this, but alot of priests led scandalous lives, living far from parishes they were appointed to, drinking heavily and living with concubines. Even if they could teach the poor about their faith who would listen when the example they set was so contradictory. The people did not want to go to these men to confess their sins. Vincent worked hard to remedy this. He founded our little band of priests for two main reasons: to evangelise the poor and to minister to the clergy and our work has revolved around these ever since.
St. Vincent founded our little band of priests for two main reasons: to evangelise the poor and to minister to the clergy. In his own time he did this through parish missions, teaching people how to make a good general confession, work in seminaries, establishing Tuesday Conferences for priests, establishing the Confraternities of Charity and many other ways.
The Congregation of the Mission have always gone where there has been a need. We are led by God to his brothers and sisters in the poor but more often it has been the poor who have led us to God. Many would ask how you find the poor in today’s world. They aren’t sitting on every street corner like they were in seventeenth century France. But if we only look, they are; poor in material needs, poor in spiritual needs, poor in emotional needs. We as Vincentians try to reach out to the poor wherever we find them and in whatever way we can.