Raymond L. Sickinger
Raymond Sickinger’s biography of Antoine Frédéric Ozanam is more than a chronological account of Ozanam’s relatively brief but extraordinary life. It is also a comprehensive study of a man who touched many lives as a teacher, writer, and principal founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Ozanam’s life encompassed a particularly turbulent time in French history, and he was a witness to two major political upheavals—the overthrow of the Bourbon dynasty that brought Louis Philippe to power in 1830, and the end of Louis Philippe’s “Bourgeois Monarchy” as a result of the 1848 Revolutions. This book examines Ozanam’s life in a variety of ways. First, it explores the various roles he played throughout his life—son, sibling, student, member of and an inspiration for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, spouse and father, scholar, and spokesperson for the common people. Second, it examines the lessons he learned in his life, including the importance of friendship, the meaning of solidarity, and the role and purpose of suffering, among many others that he shares with those who study his thought and work. It concludes with an account of Ozanam’s enduring legacy.
Antoine Frédéric Ozanam feared that he would not have a fruitful career, but his legacy remains a powerful testimony to his greatness. This book will interest scholars wishing to know more about Ozanam and the period in which he lived, as well as a wider audience including those who are aware or are members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
“Raymond Sickinger offers us a long awaited well researched and written biography of Frederic Ozanam, a model of holiness for the laity. Ozanam lived out the Gospel call to holiness through caring for the spiritual and material needs of people who are poor. This highly readable book will inspire the reader to service and love of neighbor.” — Deacon Gene Smith, Past President of the National Council, St. Vincent de Paul Society
“This is likely to become the definitive biographical work on Ozanam for the foreseeable future. I was most impressed by the author’s ability to personalize Ozanam without descending into the seductions of hagiography. This book fulfills the author’s strategic plan of explicating Ozanam’s impressive work as a leading lawyer and literary scholar, the worth and value of true friendship; and in setting the stage for central elements of Catholic social teaching to come to full fruition in our time. ” — David L. Gregory, The Dorothy Day Professor of Law, St. John’s University
“Historian Raymond Sickinger’s affection for his subject surfaces throughout his new biography of Frederic Ozanam. It is an earned affection, as Sickinger meticulously documents, using rich archival and primary sources, the spiritual, civic and personal experiences that informed Ozanam’s life and led him to found the St. Vincent dePaul Society. Sickinger also offers a reading of Ozanam’s life that suggests the degree to which he identified and considered key problems of power, charity and systems change that remain present in the helping professions. Finally, Sickinger draws parallels between Ozanam’s lifelong efforts and the current civic engagement movement: helping young people find life purpose; restoring democracy; and making compassion and service core values of communal, public life. The book is a pleasure to read and a significant contribution to the global history of community service.” — Keith Morton, Providence College
“Raymond Sickinger’s insightful book on the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers English-speaking readers an arresting portrait of a Catholic layman moved to prophetic action by the promptings of his faith as well as a grounding in the spiritual depths of a lay movement that challenges its members to grow in holiness in the course of serving the poor. Locating his subject amid the challenges of the political, intellectual, and religious turmoil of ninteenth-century France, Sickinger not only highlights Ozanam’s significant role in the history of Catholic lay spirituality but assesses him in light of the thought-provoking legacy he has left the contemporary church.” — Wendy M. Wright, Creighton University
“Antoine Frédéric Ozanam gives us not just the story of an interesting man living at an interesting time, but also a clear picture of why he should still matter to us today. Raymond Sickinger’s affinity for Ozanam yields contemporary insights into Frédéric’s ideas about systemic thinking, servant leadership, suffering, politics, and spirituality. The book chronicles a legacy that will have relevance for any reader trying to integrate a meaningful spirituality into their professional, family, and political lives." — Ralph Middlecamp, president, National Council of the United States, Society of St. Vincent de Paul
“Frédéric Ozanam was one of a number of influential Catholics in postrevolutionary France who was seeking ways Catholicism could authentically reconstitute itself after the disaster of the ancien régime. Raymond Sickinger does Catholic scholars a tremendous service by reframing Ozanam, analyzing his importance in his own context, and identifying the myriad ways his legacy remains relevant for the church today.” — Thomas O’Brien, DePaul University
“At last. Raymond Sickinger has gifted us: we now have an excellent biography of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam in English. It has been years since there has been any complete biographic work on Ozanam in English. There are several high-caliber biographies in French, but there has been no indication that they will ever be translated into English or Spanish.” — Ronald Ramson, C.M., author of Praying with Frédéric Ozanam
“Sickinger . . . unveils the life of an early-19th-century Catholic who is surprisingly relevant to modern times. Ozanam was a devout French Catholic, a prominent scholar, and the principal founder of the lay Catholic charity St. Vincent de Paul. . . . Sickinger meticulously shows how, through visiting and supporting the poor, Ozanam became an advocate of ideas considered radical in his day, such as trade unionism, progressive taxation, and a guaranteed job. . . . the book effectively portrays Ozanam as a compassionate advocate for the poor and deftly highlights the powerful lessons in this 19th-century saint’s witness.” — Publishers Weekly
“Thanks to Sickinger’s faithfulness to his authentic subject—which is to say, the man himself, not the image of the man—this book is sure to become the definitive biography of Ozanam for decades, if not longer. . . . Ozanam is a relatively unknown but important, even pivotal, figure in the Church’s recent history. Whether you are a Vincentian, Catholic Worker, both, or neither, I can’t think of a better introduction to the inspiring life and enduring legacy of Antoine Frédéric Ozanam.” — Patheos
“Ozanam (1813–1853), one of the founders and definite inspiration for the worldwide Society of St. Vincent de Paul, left an indelible mark on his native France at a time when the Church’s social teachings were coming into greater clarity and practice. . . . Ozanam’s life is given in detail by Sickinger, but what makes the biography more fulsome is an analysis of his impact, particularly upon the developing social teachings of the Church.” — CatholicBooksReview
“Antoine Frédéric Ozanam, the Catholic teacher and writer best known as the principal founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, was born to a French family in 1813. He died at the relatively young age of 40, but his legacy continues to be felt around the world in the estimated 800,000 members of the Society who serve the poor in 135 countries today. His life offers many lessons for the contemporary reader, lessons that Dr. Ray Sickinger . . . explores in a new biography.” — Rhode Island Catholic