On 21th July, 2019, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) celebrates with great joy the 180th anniversary since the inception of the Council General International (CGI). A link with access to the first CGI meeting minute (in PDF version) will be provided below.
The CGI, as it is known today, results from splitting the ‘Board’ into other two administrative bodies: on the one hand, the ‘Paris’ Council’, that runs the Conferences in Paris (16 units at that time); and, on the other hand, the ‘Council General’, responsible for SSVP’s growth beyond Paris (with 22 Conferences at that time).
It’s worth noting that the ‘Board’ dates back to 1836, when the first Rule was drawn up. However, during a meeting held on 14th July 1839, SSVP leaders agreed on splitting the ‘Board’ and the subsequent setting-up of the ‘Council General’, whose decision was made at a General Assembly held on 21st July 1839. Hence, the birth date of the Council General is the 21st July 1839. The first official meeting of the new Council was held on 27th December 1840. The term ‘General Council’ was already used in the 1839 Rule.
The term ‘Council General International’ emerged in 1967, when the ‘Bologna’s Council General’ (women’s branch of the SSVP) merged with the men’s branch, thus creating a single mixed Society of St. Vincent de Paul, made up of both men and women.
In these 180 years of history, the Council General has had 16 General Presidents. The first one was Emmanuel Joseph Bailly de Surcy, and the current one is Renato Lima de Oliveira (the first one in the southern hemisphere). Some interesting facts: The President General who remained in office the longest was Adolphe Baudon (38 years). The youngest President General, when elected, was Adolphe Baudon (28 years old). The President General throughout the merging with the women’s branch was Pierre Chouard. The oldest President General, when elected, was Jacques Zeiller (65 years old). The first non-French President General was César Augusto Nunes Viana, from Portugal.
During the annual plenary session of the Council General, held from 13th to 16th June, the 180th anniversary of the Council General was commemorated with different activities, such as three Vincentian book launches, the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Religious of St. Vincent (RSV), and the release of the song The Seven Founders, which highlights the virtues of the seven pioneers of the Society.
We request that, on 21st July, 2019, every parish in the world with a Vincentian Conference includes the following prayer in the Sunday Mass prayer list: “We pray for the 180th anniversary of the Council General International of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, so that it may keep on bringing the message of peace, unity and charity to all Vincentians and the poor of the world”.
Let us pray for our President General, Renato Lima, for the International Board, as well as for all the fellow members providing some kind of service within the International Structure. “We acknowledge, on this date, not only the role of the seven founders of the SSVP, but also that of the first members and all those who have served within the Council General throughout these 180 years, especially those who are already in the Lord’s house”, stated the President General.
Further details on the first days of the SSVP and the inception of the Council General can be found in the book by the well-known French writer Matthieu Brejon de Lavergnée (pages 217-230), entitled “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the 19th century”. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read part of Matthieu’s book.
Click here to read the first minute of the Council General, dated 21st July 1839.