CELEBRATIONS AT BIRMINGHAM
The Congregation of the Missionaries of Si. Francis de Sales celebrated the centenary of its foundation last Monday, October 24. A Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving was sung in the chapel of the English scholasticate at New Oscott, Birmingham.
His Grace the Archbishop of Birmingham was the guest of honour at the luncheon presided over by Fr. Morrin, M.S.F.S., and among the visiting clergy were the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Cronin, V.G., the Very Rev. Leonard Canon Emery, Rector of St. Mary's College, Oscott, and all the professorial staff of the college. In his speech welcoming the visitors, Fr. Morrin outlined the main activities of the Congregation : to give parochial missions and retreats, to teach in colleges, to labour in the foreign missions, and to assist the secular clergy.
Archbishop Williams expressed his pleasure at being present with the missionaries on this happy occasion and thanked them for the work they are doing in his archdiocese. In the afternoon Solemn Benediction with Te Deum was given by the Very Rev. Canon Rector of Oscott College.
St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, lived and laboured in Annecy in Savoy. During his life, St. Francis felt particularly the need for a body of men who should go from place to place in France, particularly in Savoy, preaching missions, retreats, and giving other spiritual exercises, especially among the poorer people. St. Francis died in 1622 without seeing his idea of missionaries materialise, but three foundations made in the nineteenth century owe their inception directly to the saintly Bishop.
The Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, founded in Annecy by the Rev. P. Mermier and Mgr. P. J. Rey, Bishop of Annecy, in 1838, and approved by the Holy See in 1845.
The Society of St. Francis de Sales, whose members are better known as Salesians, founded at Turin (Italy) by St. John Bosco, in 1859, and approved by the Holy See in 1864.
The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, founded in 1871 at Troyes (France) by the Rev. Fr. Brisson and Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis, and approved by the Holy See in 1875.
Work of Missionaries
The missionaries of St. Francis de Sales whose centenary was celebrated, were, at the start, missioners at home, that is, they were priests who went from place to place in France, especially Savoy, preaching missions, retreats and other spiritual exercises.
In 1843, five years only after the Congregation had been canonically erected, the founder, Fr. Mermier, being in Rome to get his institute approved by the Holy See, asked the Pope for permission to send some of his subjects to the foreign missions—ad Paganos. He mentioned the mission of New Guinea. This area was never granted to him, but a large district in India, comprising today the diocese of Nagpur and the diocese of Visagapatam, was entrusted to the Congregation by Propaganda in 1845. In 1857 the then Bishop of Clifton invited the Fathers to England, and the first house was opened at Devizes. In England there are five houses and 34 members of the Order. Their Superior is parish priest of Hampton Hill, Middlesex.