The word “charism” is used to describe any special characteristics of the mission or works of a particular spiritual orientation (for example, the works of a teaching order as compared with that of a missionary order, or one devoted to care of the poor or the sick). Vincentian charism refers to serving the poor in the way begun by St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century priest, along with St. Louise de Marillac.
St. Vincent embraced humble and grateful service to others, especially to those who are poor. Concern for the whole person – body, mind and spirit: this holistic approach to caring translates to all of our ministries – education, social services, health care, missions and spiritual formation.
The first foundation made by Vincent de Paul was for lay women (the Ladies of Charity) in 1617, when he experienced a personal conversion that led him to discover the pervasiveness of poverty in his day. He responded with bold initiatives to address these social problems. Vincent’s integration of evangelization and charity became the Vincentian charism. Notably, from the beginning the role of the laity was pivotal for his mission.
Word Origin: mid 17th Cent. via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek kharisma, from kharis ‘favor, grace.’