St. Vincent de Paul was born to a poor peasant family in France in 1581. Educated by the Franciscans, he tutored the affluent to finance his formal theological studies. He was ordained in 1600, and hoped to rise in the hierarchy of the Church, obtain wealth, retire early, and support his family. Upon finishing his studies in Avignon and Rome, Vincent became pastor of a small parish in Clichy. During his time there, he became conscious that the poor were not being evangelized or helped. A call to a more pastoral ministry emerged and developed into a strong passion to care for those in need, both physically and spiritually.
From that point forward he spent his life preaching missions to and providing relief for the poor. He founded the Ladies of Charity, a lay institute of women who collected funds to provide food and clothing for the poor. Later, with the help of Saint Louise de Marillac, he founded the Daughters of Charity. Vincent established several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war, and ministered to convicts. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries. Vincent became the leader of what is now known as the Congregation of the Mission, or the Vincentians. These priests devoted themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. Vincent died in Paris on September 27, 1660.
Inspired by St. Vincent, a young French student, Frederic Ozanam, founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 1833. At that time, Frederic was a student at the University of Sorbonnes. While participating in a debating society there, an opponent challenged him about what the Catholic Church was doing to help the poor in Paris. Stung by this question, Frederic Ozanam set out with a group of young men to address this problem. The founding members developed their method of service under the guidance of Sister Rosalie Rendu, a member of the Congregation of Daughters of Charity. She urged the men to take St. Vincent as their patron, and thus the Society was born.
Compassion in action was the heart of Frederic Ozanam’s spirituality.
A man convinced of the inestimable worth of each human being, Frédéric served the poor of Paris well, and drew others into serving the poor of the world. Through the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, which he founded, his work continues to the present day. The Society has about 800,000 members in some 140 countries.
From your Hands to their Homes
A look at the fruitful spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul
By Jennifer Bube
The spirit of giving is alive and well throughout Brown County. Our community continues to be deeply rooted in the neighborly kindness we share with one another. Tucked in the hills and hollers of our small town, lies a beautiful building that has quietly stoked this spirit since Saint Agnes parishioners started it in 1988. Remy Aumage, 93, smiled sweetly as he rested for a moment in this building on a donated couch with 83 year-old Jim DeLong. The two good friends can still be found sharing their hands and hearts with the community through the Brown County Saint Vincent de Paul.
Back in its beginnings, the volunteers for our local conference of Saint Vincent de Paul were drawn in by our very own Sister Mildred Wannemuehler. Sister Mildred’s philosophy for giving was built on a life of service for all. She was known for saying, “What we give them, we give from our hearts.” Many of those still helping at the charity fondly remember the excitement she shared for serving Brown County and taking care of their ‘Brothers and Sisters by address’. Before the conference had its own location, its operations congregated in the old Saint Agnes Church. Sister Mildred could often be found surrounded by a bevy of others providing donated goods to those who need…straight out of the back of her vehicle.
The conference started out in a small lumber storage building on the side of state road 135 and eventually had to move to an even tighter and more primitive space. But did the dirt floor and the leaking roof of their new environment dare to dampen the drive of the volunteers? Not one bit. Today, one of our community’s most treasured non-profit services has found its home on the land of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Camp on the outskirts of Nashville. When the lease was first issued, CYO generously offered it to Saint Vincent de Paul for only $1.00.
Over these 30 years, as the needs of the community grew, so did the building. With donations from parishioners, SVdP in Indianapolis, community members, and grants from the Brown County Community Foundation, the building now boasts a new extension, shelving, heating, some exterior storage at the barn near the church, and a walk-through pantry shop for the families it serves. A hookup to sewer and septic and a modern bathroom was added in 2019.
“We used to go to the motel in Nashville,” Remy remembers, “They were giving all the bedding of the motel, all the box springs and mattresses. We used to go over there with the truck and they’d fill that truck up so high.” Remy has made it something of a family tradition, giving his time alongside his wife and family. Nestled on the camp grounds, this donation and distribution hub has become a welcoming place for not only those in the community who need – but a place for those who live to give. Handing out food, clothing, household necessities, personal care items, toys, and even facilitating the Back to School voucher program, the conference serves nearly 500 of your neighborhood families on an annual basis. In November the distribution includes turkey breasts and in December Christmas hams. Volunteers work throughout December to offer a Christmas Celebration that reaches more than 500 children and grandchildren each year.
Many of you know of this gem of goodwill called Saint Vincent de Paul. You’ve generously left goods for their cause in the foyer of church and heard of their stories during sermons, announcements, and conversations with one another. Even more of you have interacted with the families that this non-profit organization serves. They are other Brown Countians, your friends, your child’s classmates…and they are grateful for your help. Have you had a chance to share your spirit of giving with them?
“We had a lot of good people and a lot of help,” Jim smiles. “Always have had and always will.”
Want to help? Call us at 812-988-8821 or mail us at P O Box 577, Nashville IN 47448 or
come by and visit us at 2901 Long Lake Road, Nashville IN.
Note: Jennifer Bube, a member of St. Agnes interviewed Remy Aumage and James DeLong one late summer day in 2019. They shared stories and photos as they remembered the early days of St. Vincent d Paul in Brown County.