Amid the many activities to which St. Francis devoted himself, he long had the desire to found a society of missionary priests. This wish, however, was not to find its realization until nearly two centuries after his death. At that time Monsignor Riley, a successor of the Saint in the See of Annecy , broached the subject of such a society to Father 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 Vizagapatam have always been governed by prelates belonging to this institute. At Vizagapatam 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 are: the Very Rev. Fathers Mermier, Gaiddon, Clavel, Tissot, Gojon, and Bouvard.
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