The International Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1833 by Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old student at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. Challenged to “practice what they preach,” Frederic and a group of fellow students sought out the poor in Paris and brought them bread, clothing and most importantly, friendship. This small group took as their Patron the great friend priest St. Vincent de Paul, known as the “Apostle of Charity."
Similar groups began forming across France and eventually throughout the Christian world, including the United States. The first St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Alameda County started in 1882 with the establishment of the Sacred Heart parish conference in Oakland. Although the Sacred Heart Conference was initially active for only 10 years, it served as a “beacon of light” within the County. The faint glimmer was revived 56 years later when the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County was established in 1938. During this transitional period in the East Bay, six active conferences were organized by Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan of San Francisco.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County is home to 38 Conferences. They are united under one District Council, which is headquartered in Oakland.