Our Canadian Founder:
Joseph Painchaud, the founder of the Society in
, became a member of the Society while he was studying
medicine in the university in
. It is likely
that, during his student days in
, he would have known, not only Frederic Ozanam, but also the
other founders of our Society.
early 1846, the General Council, seeing the remarkable
blessing God had given the Society to spread beyond the
, wrote to the Bishops of the world to acquaint them with the
existence of our Society and its aims and objectives.
Such a letter was received at the Cathedral in
when young Dr. Painchaud got back home after completing his
medical studies, and went to discuss the founding of a
Conference in his parish, the groundwork had already been laid
and it was on November 11, 1846 that the first Conference met
in the St. Louis Chapel of the Cathedral, where a memorial
plaque still exists as a reminder of our beginning in this
than a year after the founding of the first Conference, nine
other Conferences had been founded in
alone, five of them in the Irish parish.
It is noted that the Potato Famine Immigrants had
already begun to arrive and that there was a very large
, with only one non-territorial parish.
Thus the boundaries of the five English-speaking
Conferences were those of the five city wards.
might begin to think that all of the early members of the
Society were either professors or doctors, but this was not
the case. The
first Conference which Dr. Painchaud founded in
, numbered among its members, in addition to Dr. Painchaud
himself, a judge, a tinsmith, a merchant grocer, and a
Painchaud had been so fired with enthusiasm by his fellow
Vincentians in Paris, that he threw himself wholeheartedly
into the work of developing the Society, to such a point that
he was simultaneously secretary of one Conference, the
president of another, and that, in three years, he had not
only founded twelve Conferences, but also our first Particular
most modern Vincentian, Painchaud was an active lay
member of the church. He
had a desire to work as a missionary and offered his service
as a doctor to the recently appointed Bishop of Vancouver
Island, Bishop Demers.
was accepted for work in the West Coast Missions.
On Bishop Demer's instructions, he left for
and there boarded a sailing ship en route to
. His companion
was a young priest Fr. Laroche, also a volunteer missionary.
mutiny on board ship forced them to land at Rio de Janero. From
there they took another ship to
. From there they
decided to go overland across the Isthmus of Panama.
From there they hoped to proceed by boat to
. The long journey proved too much for young Fr. Laroche.
He took sick and died and was buried by Painchaud.
Painchaud did manage to get on board a boat bound for
and on to
disaster struck again; the ship hit a bad storm and was
was cast ashore at Manzanillo,
probably decided then that these obstacles were a sign from
Divine Providence that he was not destined to reach
. He settled in a
town called Colino, where he practiced medicine and opened a
small hospital to care for plague victims.
do not know much more about him.
He did make one more attempt to reach
. Eventually, the
hard life proved too much for him and he fell sick and died
tremendous journey in faith by a Vincentian over 150
all, twelve Canadian Conferences can claim Dr. Painchaud as
their founder. From
these would grow the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in
one of his last letters to his mother, he tells her how
contradictions and trials of all kinds seem to have been his
lot since he decided to become a missionary while still a
student at school. He
considered this a sign of Godís blessing, to prepare him for
all that lay ahead. Perhaps
this optimism of Dr. Painchaudís is one of the lessons we
should derive from his life and lonely death.
Flying squad seminars compiled and adapted by Michael