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Vinnies begins 150th celebrations with pilgrimage

The St Vincent de Paul Society will this morning conduct a pilgrimage to the grave of its Australian founder Fr Gerald Ward, in the Priests' Chapel at the Melbourne General Cemetery.

Vinnies began in Australia at St Francis Church, Melbourne, on 5 March 1854. 150 years later, there are 2000 conferences (or local committees) with more than 37,000 members and volunteers assisting over 1.4 million people in need throughout the country.

This morning's pilgrimage will include a Mass.

Fr Ward, an Englishman, was recruited for service in the new Diocese of Melbourne in 1848, at the age of 42. Vinnies' commencement in the new Colony of Victoria was in direct response to the poor economic and social conditions brought about by a large influx of migrants and the discovery of gold in central Victoria.

Under Fr Ward's leadership, the Society's first major work was the establishment of the first Catholic orphanage in Victoria. He died in 1858.

Pilgrimage to the Grave of Fr Gerald Ward (St Vincent De Paul Society Vic 18/5/04)
St Vincent de Paul Society
St Vincent de Paul: An Australian Journey Since 1854 (Commemorative publication PDF downloadable from Australian Catholics website)
Encounter: The Vinnies Story (ABC Radio 29/2/04)

19 May 2004