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Blessed Frederic Ozaman

Frederic Ozaman was born into a large family in 1813 in Milan, Italy. His parents, originally from France, were temporarily living in Italy for safety reasons. Liberty and democracy existed in France but so did violence, oppression, and great gaps between the rich and the poor. Despite this turmoil the Ozaman family returned to France in 1815.

Early on, Frederic’s gifted intelligence was obvious. He went on to study law in Paris. Soon after passing the bar, he decided to pursue a teaching career in history and literature. In 1840, he became the youngest faculty member at the Sorbonne and in 1844 he was named the university’s youngest full professor.

During these years, Frederic was determined to show that one’s spiritual life and work life are really one reality. For Frederic faith was something that was put into action by serving the poor. His own words best describe his vision of faith in action: “I would like to embrace the whole world in a network of charity.”

During his university years, Ozaman was active in various Catholic action organizations. In 1833, he was the principal founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a lay organization that carries out spiritual and charitable work among the poor. The Society is now based in 131 countries and offers social services such as thrift shops, home visits, food centers, and shelters.

In 1841 Ozaman married, and in 1845 the young married couple welcomed their first and only child into the world. Frederic’s towering achievements as a husband and father, as an academic leader, and as an involved layperson, give vivid testimony to the relevancy of the gospel in the modern world. The last five years of his short but multi-faceted life were devoted to serving the poor and guiding the expansion of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In 1853, Frederic died of exhaustion and tuberculosis.

In 1993, on the 150th anniversary of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Pope John Paul II gave special thanks to God for the inspiring example of Frederic Ozaman, a man of burning faith coupled with a genius for serving the poor. During this same celebration, the Pope wistfully asked, “How could we not wish that the Church would place Frederic Ozaman among its blessed and its saints?” Just four years later, in conjunction with the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris, Pope John Paul II fulfilled that wish by beatifying Frederic Ozaman.

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