Frédéric Ozanam

Date of birth: April 23, 1813
Place of birth: Milan (French territory at this time)
Parentage: Jean Antoine Ozanam, doctor; Marie Nantas, heiress to silk business
Occupation: Lawyer and Professor of Letters, husband and father
Death: September 8, 1853
Canonization as saint: Not yet, but now Blessed


In Paris on April 23, 1833, a group of six Sorbonne University students met with a middle-aged journalist, Emmanuel Baily, in his office, to form a group to be called the Conference of Charity.

The leader of the group was Frederic Ozanam, who was driven by a deep desire to find a way to help build the faith of his peers.

Their purpose was simple: as a small group of friends, they would become servants of the poor in Paris - just as Jesus Christ had been servant to the people of his time.

Frederic, while speaking in defense of the Church in some fiery debates at the university, had been challenged by a young socialist: "What are you doing for the poor now? Show us your works!"

Frederic realized that talk alone would never give full witness to the truth. That same night he and some friends pooled what money they had and bought firewood for a poor family.

He continued leading the group with the help of Sr. Rosalie Rendu, who assisted them to meet the poor of Paris.

Others were moved by their example to commit themselves to serving the poor. They chose to call their group the Society of St Vincent de Paul, based on the exemplary charitable life led by Vincent.

Frederic's life was very active. He became lecturer of foreign literature as well as law at the University of Lyon. He married Emelie Soulacroix in June 1841.

Under the strain of considerable literary work (including many calls for social justice), he continued lecturing and serving the poor through the Society.

His health finally gave out and he died in 1853, aged 40.

Ozanam gave his life totally to God. Therefore it is not surprising that when encouraged by his confessor on his death bed not to fear but to trust in God, Ozanam replied, "Why should I fear Him when I love Him so?"


©2019 St. Vincent de Paul Green Bay.