Presenter Information

Raymond L. Sickinger Ph.D.


Frederic Ozanam’s philosophy and work has much to offer those interested in community service and service learning. Thinkers such as John Dewey and Jane Addams believed that acts of charity allowed the rich to judge the poor and to excuse themselves from greater social responsibility. Charity and social justice were therefore mutually exclusive. In contrast, Ozanam’s definition of Christian charity involved treating poor persons as equals to increase social engagement and transform all of society. Ultimately, all classes were to come together with the same social goals of “peace, order, and happiness.” With the advice of those working in the community, visits and direct service to the poor were as beneficial to those performing service as it was to those receiving it. Those who served learned about the true nature and extent of poverty and came to understand that Christ especially commanded them to work toward poverty eradication. Service greatly contributed to the development of Ozanam’s view of democracy, his own civic engagement, and his insights into labor issues, all of which are explored in detail. The formation, practices, and Rule of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul are discussed, as is Ozanam’s influence on the Catholic Worker movement.