Vincent de Paul was born at Pouy, some sixty miles northeast of Lourdes, on April 24,1581. After theological education in Toulouse, he was ordained to the priesthood on September 23, 1600 with less than noble motives. His desire was to acquire an ecclesiastical benefice that would grant him a large yearly income; this would support him comfortably as well as assist his family. But God had other plans for Vincent.
In 1609, at Paris, Vincent chose Father Pierre de Berulle, the founder of the French School of Spirituality, as his spiritual director. Through his influence, Vincent obtained his first pastorate at Clichy near Paris. Shortly afterward, he became tutor and chaplain to the aristocratic Philip de Gondi family and then chaplain to the galley-slaves of France. Through a set of circumstances, Vincent experienced conversion experiences. He decided to give himself to the poor.
In August of 1617, at his second pastorate at Chatillon-les-Dombes, not far from Ars, he established the Confraternity of Charity. This evolved into the Ladies of Charity. Groups of the Ladies of Charity quickly spread throughout the Church to assist the sick and needy.
In 1625, he founded the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) to engage in parish missions among the poor and uneducated. Because of the crying need for priestly formation, Vincent soon took on this ministry for his community.
In November 1633, along with Saint Louise de Marillac, he co-founded the Daughters of Charity. These women are engaged in hands-on ministry with the poor world-wide.
For 60 years France benefited from the works of charity of St. Vincent de Paul, his communities and the Ladies of Charity. Vincent died on September 27, 1660, four days after celebrating his diamond jubilee as a priest. He was canonized by Pope Clement XII in 1737. Leo XIII named St. Vincent de Paul patron of all charitable works; he is known as "The Apostle of Charity" and "The Father of the Poor."