Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St.Vincent de Paul, was born on April 23, 1813, in Milan, Italy, where his French parents had temporarily settled. His father and mother, both outstanding Christians, handed on to him the love of God and the poor from his earliest years.
Frederic received his primary education in Lyon, France, where his family moved when he was quite young. Frederic excelled in studies. After a crisis of faith, Frederic dedicated himself to the service of truth.
In the late autumn of 1831, he moved to Paris to enroll in the School of Law at the Sorbonne, University of Paris; he was eighteen years old. There he found open hostility to Christianity. He was soon defending the faith he loved, in and outside the lecture halls, along with others whom he had gathered. He was fulfilling his vow to truth!
On April 23, 1833, his twentieth birthday, he founded the "Conference of Charity" with six others. Their purpose was to "go to the poor" as Jesus had done. The group soon changed its name to "The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul." Frederic continued to be actively involved with the administration, activity and growth of the Society until his death. He personally saw the Society spread throughout the world. The famous Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, helped to teach the nascent association in their ministry of charity with God's poor.
Frederic received his Doctor of Law (1836) and then his Doctor of Literature (1839). The Sorbonne hired Frederic as a professor. He quickly became one of the most popular and celebrated members of the faculty.
Frederic authored several books and numerous articles. He became a champion of justice and compassion for the common worker as well as for the poorest of the poor. Frederic's academic genius was recognized by various European Academies.
On June 23, 1841, Frederic married the girl of his dreams, Amelie Soulacroix, at St. Nizier's Church, in Lyon. Their only child, Marie, was born in 1845.
Frederic's life from then on was shared among his family, his teaching, his research, his literary work and his various civic, social and religious commitments. The turmoil of the French Revolutionary period did not make all of this easy.
From childhood, Frederic was never a person of robust health. He became very ill. His wife, Amelie, took him to the Ligurian coast with hopes of recovery. But Bright's Disease had ravaged his body. On August 31, 1853, on Frederic's insistence, and contrary to the doctors' advice, Amelie boated passage on a ship back to France; Frederic wanted to die in his beloved France. They arrived at Marseille, on September 2, met by Amelie's family, Frederic's two brothers, and members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. On the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1853, Frederic died; he was forty years old.
He is buried in the crypt of the Church of St. Joseph-des-Carmes, Paris, at the Institute Catholique.
Pope John Paul II beatified Frederic Ozanam on Friday, August 22, 1997, in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, during the World Youth Days. Frederic Ozanam was the first person beatified in Paris during its long history.