Congregation of the Mission is 395 years old today

Since almost 400 years, the Feast of Conversion of St. Paul marks the milestone of the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission, which is known as Congregation of the Mission now, in English speaking world commonly known as Vincentians. On January 25, 1617 Vincent de Paul, a young priest, chaplain of the Gondi Family preached a sermon in Folleville, a village in the region of Picardy, belonging to their estates. The sermon was on general confession. It produced such a response that other priests were called to help hear all the confessions. According to Vincent himself this was the beginning of the Congregation he formally formed in 1625.

In his three volume book “The Life of the Venerable Servant of God Vincent de Paul, Founder and First Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission” Louis Abelly, Bishop of Rodez quotes his story of what happened in Folleville: “Monsieur Vincent said: It was January 1617, when all this happened, on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, the twenty-fifth of the month. This lady asked me to preach in the church of Folleville to persuade the local people to make a general confession. I did this, pointing out the importance and usefulness of this practice. I showed them how to do so worthily. God had such regard for the confidence and faith of this good lady (for the great number and enormity of my sins stood in the way of my effecting any fruit) that he blessed this sermon. All those present were moved by God, and came to make their general confession. I continued my instruction, disposing them to receive the sacrament well, and then began to hear their confessions. Even with the help of another priest who was with me, however, the press of those waiting to receive the sacrament was too great. Madame sent to request the Jesuit Fathers of Amiens to come help us. She wrote to the rector, who came himself, but not having enough time available he sent another Jesuit, Father Fourche, to help us in hearing confessions, preaching and catechizing. By the grace of God, these occupations kept us busy.
We next went to other villages in the vicinity which also belonged to Madame, to do the same as we had done in the first. We had large crowds, and God gave us his full blessing. This is how the first mission was accomplished. That it took place on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul was due solely to God’s design.”
Read the whole chapter eight of book one

These two slideshows based on Theodore Maynard’s book “Apostle of charity:the life of St. Vincent de Paul” present the primary goals of the Congregation of Mission. Slideshows  are available in Polish, too. Find more documents on the origins and spirituality of the Vincentian Family at website.

“This mission in Folleville was the first given by Monsieur Vincent and has always been considered as the seed for all the others to follow. Every year, on the twenty-fifth of January, he and his Congregation thanked God for all the graces given in his infinite bounty to this first preaching. He always wanted this feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul to be regarded as the founding date of the Congregation of the Mission, although it was to be eight more years before this first seed grew and multiplied. He never thought that this tiny mustard plant would serve as the basis for the establishment of a new Congregation in the Church, as later came about. This is why the missionaries of the Congregation celebrate the feast of the Conversion of the Apostle, in memory of the way this new Paul, their father and founder, happily completed on this day his first mission.” (cf. Abelly, Book One, Chapter Eight)


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