[JMJ 97 - Le Cyberjournal]

a brief biography of Frédéric Ozanam


The Church recognizes the sanctity of a young layman who could not rest while so many of his countrymen suffered social predicaments, and who tried to do something about it.


"Love Your Neighbour"

FRÉDÉRIC Ozanam was born in Milan on 23 April 1813. His family moved to Paris where, at the age of 17, young Frédéric began to study law. A sturdy Catholic, he became friends with such men as Lammenais, Lacordaire and Montalembert, who vouchsafed a Catholicism that took the trouble to look at the way society was living, find what was wrong and try to find Christian solutions. An epidemic of cholera that swept through Paris in 1833 did not leave the young university student uninvolved. On 26 April of that year, when he had just turned 20, Frédéric held the first of what was soon to become an international Christian charity movement: the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul, whose object is helping the very poor, in a spirit of sharing and service.

The next few years are ones of important decisions for Frédéric's life. While pursuing a hectic academic life preparing 2 doctorates (one in law, one in litterature), he considers a vocation in the Dominican Order that his friend Henri Lacordaire will soon revive in France, but discovers instead that his calling is to the poor and the evangelization of public institutes in France.

Career and Family

After completing his two doctorates in 1839, he is nominated Professor at the Sorbonne, teaching European litterature and history in the Middle Ages. He marries two years later, at the age of 28, and becomes the father of his first child, Marie, four years later. The Revolution of 1848 in Paris that is to lead shortly to the Second Empire in France under Napoleon III, is a time for Frédéric to put his faith into action. The need for a Christian outlook on society's needs seems more important than ever. He becomes part of the founding board of editors of a new newspaper called Ere Nouvelle whose goal is to communicate a Christian spirit to republican institutions. At the same time, he runs for office at the National Assembly (lower chamber of French government). One of his main issues is a Christian democracy and freedom of opinion for Catholics, a concern he shares with other men of his time. Illness forces him to suspend his teaching at the Sorbonne, and after a year ignoring advice to slow down in his other activities, he dies prematurely in Marseille on 8 September 1853, at the age of 40.

Paul-Dominique Masiclat

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul

Bringing the World Together in a Web of Charity

The Society counts 875,000 members world-wide. As of 1996, the Society is present on 5 continents:

    Africa: 39 countries
    Americas: 33 countries
    Asia: 22 countries
    Europe: 27 countries
    Oceania: 9 countries
    In France: 14,000 membership.