The history of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers) begins on January 25, 1617.
Vincent de Paul (1581) was ordained on September 23, 1600, at the age of nineteen or twenty. In 1612, he was named pastor of Saint-Medard in Clichy, a poor rural parish just northwest of Paris. As pastor, he experienced the priesthood in a way unknown to him to that point, and told the bishop he was happier than the bishop himself, and even the pope.
However, in less than a year, Cardinal Bérulle recalled him to Paris to become chaplain to the Gondi family and tutor to their children. In January of 1617, Vincent was on the Gondi estates in Picardy, and heard the confession of a dying man, who told Madame de Gondi that he would have been damned without Vincent’s ministry. She urged Vincent to preach a sermon on general confessions. He did it on January 25, 1617. His sermon produced such a response that other priests were called to help hear all the confessions.
Vincent continued giving local missions to the people. Madame de Gondi, seeing the effect of these missions, set aside money for a community to preach such missions on a wider scale, and asked Vincent to find a community able and willing to do so. Vincent asked the Jesuits and several other communities, but none were able to accept this additional apostolate. Vincent went to his old mentor, Father Duval, to share his concern and ask for advice. Duval told him that God was clearly calling Vincent himself to do the work of the missions. Vincent accepted the call, and in April, 1625, founded the Congregation of the Mission to evangelize the poor people of the countryside. However, the day of his sermon on general confession, January 25, 1617, he always recognized as the day of birth of the Congregation of the Mission.
Please pray today for new vocation to the Congregation of the Mission.
Please also pray for God’s blessings for our priests and brothers – especially those who work at our parish, and for eternal happiness for those of us who have passed away.
A quote from "The Life of the Venerable Servant of God Vincent de Paul, Founder and First Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission" (Divided Into Three Books) by Louis Abelly, Bishop of Rodez, Book One Chapter Eight:
"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. <Ftn: CED XI:3-5.>
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.” <Footnote: The saint himself established this celebration. CED XI:169-172; XII:7-8.>
More history can be found on the New Advent Encyclopedia:
More information on the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers) can be found on this website:
Please check also the Vincentian Encyclopedia for more detailed information: