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Introduction

"Being charitable towards your neighbour... will always be the rule among us. No one else on earth is more called to be charitable than we are; no other community must be more dedicated to the outward expression of heartfelt acts of charity."

Saint Vincent de Paul, Conference on 30 May 1659.




Portrait of Saint Vincent de Paul

The great saint of charity, Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), addressed these words to the Lazarists, or the disciples of the Congregation of the Mission, an organisation he founded in 1625. The Lazarists dedicate their lives to following the principles of their founder and have always practised charity in their institutions, mission houses, parishes, and hospitals. Moreover, the Congregation was a powerful educational organisation. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the organisation controlled three-quarters of the diocesan seminaries in France. Disbanded and then subsequently restored under Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congregation of the Mission experienced another period of rapid growth in the nineteenth century during which it took over numerous religious, educational, and charitable institutions, including the Collège des Irlandais de Paris (Irish College in Paris) in 1858.