Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales
The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS), also known as the Fransalians, was founded in Annecy, France on 24 October 1838 by Fr. Peter Mermier under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales. The political disturbances in the country, especially the French Revolution had its impact in the spiritual realm too as it left the people in a deep spiritual crisis and indifference towards their religious duties. Sensing the signs of the time Fr. Mermier took upon himself the task of a spiritual renewal in his people by preaching parish missions. This special apostolate in turn gave rise to a community of preachers gathered around Fr. Mermier.
It was founded in response to the desire of St. Francis de Sales to found a society of missionary priests. Nearly two centuries after the saint's death, Monsignor Joseph Rey, a successor of the Saint in the See of Annecy, broached the subject of such a society to Father Peter Mermier, who had been considering the same idea. Accordingly, Father Mermier put the design into execution.
In 1830 the institute was formed with La Feuillette as the site for the mother-house. This was solemnly blessed by the bishop on 8 August 1837, and the congregation canonically instituted by him on 8 October 1838. The society was not to be a mere association of priests, but a new religious congregation, bound by simple vows. Hence Father Mermier, the first superior-general, offered himself and his companions to the Pope for foreign missions. In 1845 his offer was accepted by the Propaganda, and the first missionaries of St. Francis de Sales set out for India.
The work has prospered and since that time more than 100 priests and seminarians have been sent out by the congregation, besides many lay brothers. More than 200 nuns of different orders have gone out at the call of the missionaries to help them. The dioceses of Nagpur and Visakhapatnam have always been governed by prelates belonging to this institute. In Visakhapatnam the first vicar apostolic was Mgr Neyret (1850); he was succeeded by Mgr Tissot, first bishop of the diocese.
The present occupant of the see is Mgr Clerc. The first bishop of Nagpur was Mgr Riccaz; after him came Mgrs Pelvat, Crochet, Bonaventure, and Coppel. In England the fathers have three missions in the Diocese of Clifton. Since the persecution of 1903, the congregation has been obliged to leave Savoy for England, where the juvenate, the novitiate, and the house of studies are successfully carried on. The superiors-general since the foundation have been: the Very Reverend Fathers Mermier, Gaiddon, Clavel, Tissot, Gojon, and Bouvard.
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