Louis Brisson, a priest of Troyes in France, founded the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. As a diocesan priest, he was assigned as the full-time chaplain to the monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Troyes. Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis, the superior of that community was convinced that it was, in fact, the will of God that their humble chaplain start a religious order of men to follow the spiritual legacy of St. Francis de Sales. He resisted.
However, the presence of God continued to stir within Fr. Brisson, climaxing in an apparition of Jesus Christ. This moment of prayer provided Fr. Brisson with the impetus to begin his work to gather men as Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who were founded in 1875. He also started, with St. Leonie Aviat, the founder of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, to redress the injustices of industrialization as it impacted poor girls in the urban districts of Troyes. Together, they began schools to ensure that these students would be protected from poverty and conscripted employment.
Since 1875, thousands of men in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America have joined the community. Oblates first arrived in the United States in 1893 and established a permanent community in 1903. The decision was made to form two American provinces - one headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware and one in Toledo, Ohio - in 1966.
Fr. Brisson was beatified, at the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, in 2012, in Troyes, France. The cause for his canonization remains active.
The dream, inspiration and vision of Blessed Louis Brisson and Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis - embraced over and over again by each new member of the Community - is the ongoing story of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
This story, through the grace of God, becomes the story of any disciple yearning to live Jesus.
The mission of the Congregation is to grow as a religious community in loving union with God and with each other, to share our charism with the People of God, and affirm them in “living Jesus” as the needs of the Church dictate. Following the example of our founder, Father Louis Brisson, and in accordance with the spirit of St. Francis de Sales, we Oblates place ourselves under the guidance of the Holy See in the pursuit of this mission.
To the great disappointment of his father, Francis gave up a promising civil career to follow his calling to the priesthood. After his ordination, he was sent as a young missionary to the Chablais district of Savoy for four years. By the end of his missionary apostolate, 72,000 men and women had re-embraced the Catholic faith.
Francis was ordained Bishop of Geneva in 1602 but resided in Annecy (now part of modern-day France) because Geneva was under Calvinist control and therefore closed to him. His diocese became famous throughout Europe for its efficient organization, zealous clergy and well-instructed laity--monumental achievements in those days.
Francis’ fame as a spiritual director and writer grew. He was convinced by others to collect, organize and expand on his many letters addressing spiritual subjects. He published these letters in 1609 under the title Introduction to the Devout Life. This work would become his most famous, but Francis’ special project was the writing of A Treatise of the Love of God, published in 1616, over which he prayed and labored many years.
Centered in the call to live Jesus, the spirituality of Francis de Sales flowed out of his experiences as a missionary priest, bishop, spiritual director, author and Religious Founder.
Francis collaborated with Jane de Chantal in founding the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, a religious order known for the simplicity of its rule and traditions. After Francis’ death in 1622 (at the age of 55), Jane was determined to establish an order of men who, above all, would be formed by the teachings of Francis de Sales. Her dream finally was realized in the work of Father Louis Brisson and Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis some 250 years later.
The Calling to America
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales first came to the United States in 1893, at the request of the Sisters of Divine Compassion, a new religious community founded in 1886 in the Archdiocese of New York by Mrs. Mary Starr and Monsignor Thomas S. Preston, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of
Patrons & Founders
Learn more about the lives and legacies of some of the sources and followers of the Salesian spiritual tradition through both their biographies and selected thoughts/quotes from their writings.
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Patron of the Oblates, St. Francis de Sales was a bishop who believed that all people were called to a life of holiness, regardless of their state in life. Here, he foreshadowed the vision of the Second Vatican Council. From his writings, preaching, and ministry grew what is known as “Salesian” spirituality. He is a doctor of the church and best-known for his practical, down-to-earth approach to living the Gospel.
St. Jane de Chantal (1572-1641)
St. Jane de Chantal was a friend of and co-worker with St. Francis de Sales. A widowed mother of four adult children, she founded the Visitation of Holy Mary with St. Francis de Sales. This Visitation religious community remains strong today and has grown to take us Oblates as "cousins" in the Salesian family. By the time of her death over 80 Visitation communities had been established.
Bl. Louis Brisson, OSFS (1817-1908)
Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFS, was a diocesan priest who, along with Mary de Sales Chappuis, VHM, founded the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, a congregation dedicated to spreading the optimistic, inspired-common-sense wisdom of St. Francis de Sales in a variety of ministries and apostolates. Fr. Brisson spent much of his life as the chaplain to the Visitation community in Troyes, France.
St. Leonie Aviat, OSFS (1844-1914)
St. Leonie Aviat, OSFS, co-founded the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales with Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFS. Her congregation was founded to provide for both the physical, social and spiritual needs of girls exploited in factories and mills springing up throughout France during the Industrial Revolution.