THE SOCIETY IN INDIA 

          The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was officially started in India in 1863, when the following Conferences in Bombay were ‘aggregated’ and the Bombay Particular Council was instituted:

Our Lady of Health, Cavel, St. Teresa, Girgaum;
ST.Peter. Bandra; St. Joseph, Umerkhadi;
Our Lady of Victories, Mahim; and St. Anne, Mazgaon

          Earlier, in 1859, a few Conferences were established in Calcutta, but were only ‘aggregated’ some years later. The Conferences of St. Francis Xavier and St. Thomas in Calcutta were aggregated in 1866 and the Conferences of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Rosary in 1869. A Conference was started in Belgaum, Karnataka, in 1860 by the Irish Fusiliers. Information has recently become available that the society was actually introduced into India in 1852/53 when a young priest of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, Fr. Francois Joseph Thirion, set up a men’s Conferences and Women’s Conference in Pondicherry. Both Conferences were engaged in a variety of charitable activities, including the management of a Leprosy Home. However they were not ‘aggregated’ and the record shows that they ceased to function in 1873. The Society was revived in Pondicherry in 1904.

          Father Leo Meurin, S.J. (later Bishop Meurin of happy memory) laid the foundation of the Society in Bombay. With his tremendous dedication and zeal and love for the Society, he was instrumental in starting Conferences in a number of parishes in Bombay city and suburbs within a year of the establishment of the first Conference at Bhuleshwar in 1862. The following account of the beginnings of the Society in Bombay appears in a book entitled “Select Writings of the Most Rev. Dr. Leo Meurin S.J. “published by the Examiner Press in 1891:

Bishop Leo Meurin S.J of Bombay

          “Scarcely had a month passed since the arrival of Fr. Meurin at Cavel to take charge of St. Xavier’s School, when his great activity and love for his neighbors were manifested in the establishment of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He managed, with the assistance of 8 young men, to begin a Conference, whose first meeting was held on 4th December, 1862, at Bhuleshwar, They began to work privately till 25 January of the following year, when a public meeting presided over by the Vicar Apostolic, Dr. Walter Steins, S.J., was held. The efforts of the members of the Conferences of the Society in and about Bombay in alleviating human misery cannot be over-praised, and a slight insight may be gained into their good work when it is known that during the first 25 years of its existence the Society had relieved more that 7,212 families consisting of 16,491 persons.

The idea of establishing the St. Vincent Home for housing the poor of the Society was conceived by Fr. Meurin on seeing the wretchedness and misery of the poor he visited in company with the members, particularly of a Negro woman, who was cripple from paralysis and who dwelt by herself for want of a better place in a miserable hut in a cemetery.”

             On the sound foundations laid by Fr. Meurin, the Society in Bombay continued to progress and available records indicate that more than 30 Conferences had been available in the City and suburbs by the end of 1885. In 1885 a palatial property at Trombay, Bombay, was donated to Bishop Meurin by the well-known Allbless family of Bombay and subsequently conveyed to the Society as a gift in trust to be used for a Leper Asylum. This was the beginning of the Eduljee Framjee Allbless Leprosy Home, a major medical relief work, which the Society in Bombay has been conducting since 1885. The centenary of the Home was celebrated in 1985.

 

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