It all started in Châtillon almost 400 years ago…
One Sunday in August 1617, during Mass, Saint Vincent called on his parishioners to help a sick family in great need. Many women responded that same afternoon, visiting the family and bringing them aid. Three days later, on 23rd August 1617, marvelling at such generosity, and feeling it necessary to organise this help to make it more effective and long-lasting, Saint Vincent led a first group of women to form a confraternity, with the aim of providing spiritual and material help to those most in need. 8th December 1617 is marked as the official starting date for this first group, which was called the Confraternity of Charity.
During his lifetime, Saint Vincent ensured the Charities spread across France and beyond, with the help of Saint Louise and a large number of volunteers.
Many things have happened since the sermon that inspired Saint Vincent to form the first group…
Today, we are called AIC – International Association of Charities – and we form an international network that continues to fight against poverty and its causes on four continents.
The beacon of Charity now has 53 national associations which bring together 150,000 Vincentian volunteers from all over the world. The tiny flame which Vincent and Louise once carried has now become this great beacon of Charity. We commit to carrying it onwards, ever burning, for new generations.
Important dates in our history
1617: First inspiration in Châtillon-les-Dombes for Vincent de Paul, where over 50 women responded to his call and brought help to a family in need. Saint Vincent founded the first Confraternity of Charity.
1625: The Congregation of the Mission was founded, receiving approval in the Papal Bull, Salvatoris Nostri. It stated that the Congregation’s mission was to evangelise the poor and to see that Confraternities of Charity were founded in order to ensure the poor were served and that lay people remembered the importance of evangelisation.
1629: Vincent de Paul appointed Louise de Marillac as Visitor of the Confraternities of Charity, telling her: “Go then, mademoiselle, in the name of Our Lord, who helps you on your way, shades you from the heat of the sun, covers you from rain and cold, gives you milk when you are tired, strength in your work, and finally sends you back in perfect health and full of good works”.
1632: Louise visited and organised the Charities in Paris and the surrounding villages.
1633: Foundation of the Company of the Daughters of Charity, to whom Saint Vincent entrusted the expansion of the Charities.
The Charities spread throughout France and went to Italy (1634) and afterwards to Poland (1651). They therefore became international during Saint Vincent’s lifetime. Over the next couple of centuries, the Charities continued to spread into many countries. Other groups arose spontaneously (among them Germany and Belgium), and as they had the same objectives, they combined to form the International Association.
From 1789 to 1840:
The French Revolution forced the French “Charities” to suspend their work; links to “Charities” in other countries were interrupted. The French association revived in 1840 and re-established its contacts.
1930: First international Congress of the Charities in Paris.
1971: Extraordinary international meeting in Rome, during which delegates from 22 countries voted on a new Constitution, elected an Executive Board and an International President, and drew up lines of action to rejuvenate the association. The name AIC – International Association of Charities – was adopted. The international secretariat moved from Paris to Brussels. The Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission handed over control of the Association to the Presidents elected by the International Assembly of Delegates. The Fathers became “Spiritual Advisers” at all levels of the Association.
1977: Celebration of the 360th Anniversary of the “Charities”: a “Declaration of the 360th Anniversary of AIC” was written for the occasion.
1981: Official introduction of AIC’s Basic Document, “Acting together against poverty”, whose purpose was to define the fundamental project of Saint Vincent, adapting it to new realities.
1986: AIC was granted a legal identity under civil law, officially recognised as an international, non-profit association according to Belgian law, and its Constitution was approved.
2010: Grand Jubilee of the 350th anniversary of the deaths of the Founders, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac.
2017: Celebration of the 400th anniversary of our Foundation.