A congregation of priests founded originally by Saint Francis de Sales at the request of Saint Jane de Chantal. The establishment at Thonon was a preparatory step toward carrying out his design, the accomplishment of which was prevented by his death. With Saint Jane Frances de Chantal's encouragement and assistance, Raymond Bonal of Agde, in France, carried out his plan but this congregation died out at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Two hundred years later it was revived by Ven. Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis, who died in the odour of sanctity, 7 October, 1875, and Abbé Louis Alexander Alphonse Brisson, a professor in the Seminary of Troyes. In 1869 Father Brisson began Saint Bernard's College, near Troyes. In September, 1871, Father Gilbert (died 10 November, 1909) joined him, and Mgr Ravinet, Bishop of Troyes, received them and four companions into the novitiate. The Holy See approved temporarily their constitutions, 21 Dec., 1875. The first vows were made 27 August, 1876. The definitive approbation of their constitution was given on 8 December, 1897. The members of the institute are of two ranks, clerics and lay-brothers. The postulate lasts from six to nine months; the novitiate from one year to eighteen months. For the first three years the vows are annual, after that perpetual. The institute is governed by a superior general elected for life, and five counsellors general elected at each general chapter, which takes place every ten years. The congregation gradually developed in France. It numbered seven colleges and five other educational houses when the Government closed them all, 31 July, 1903. The founder retired to Plancy where he died 2 February, 1908. The mother-house was transferred to Rome, and the congregation divided into three provinces, Latin, German, and English. The first comprises France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, and South America; the second Austria, the German Empire and the southern half of its South-west African colony; the third, England, United States, and the north-western part of Cape Colony. Each province is administered by a provincial, appointed by the superior general and his council for ten years. He is assisted by three counsellors elected at each provincial chapter, which meets every ten years, at an interval of five years between the regular general chapters.
The Latin province has a scholasticate at Albano. In 1909 the church of Sts. Celsus and Julian in Rome was given to the Oblates. The novitiate for the Latin and German provinces is in Giove (Umbria). The Ecole Commerciale Ste Croix, in Naxos (Greece), has about fifty pupils, and the College St. Paul at Piræus (Athens) about two hundred. Four Fathers, stationed in Montevideo (Uruguay) are occupied with mission work. They have a flourishing Young Men's Association. In Brazil, three Fathers have the district of Don Pedrito do Sul (11,000 square miles with a Catholic population of 20,000). The headquarters of the Uruguay-Brazil mission is at Montevideo, Uruguay. One Oblate is stationed in Ecuador, where before the Revolution of 1897 the congregation had charge of the diocesan seminary of Riobamba, several colleges, and parishes. In 1909 a school for the congregation was opened at Dampicourt, Belgium. The German province has a preparatory school of about forty students in Schmieding (Upper Austria ). They have charge of St. Anne's (French) church in Vienna, also the church of Our Lady of Dolours in Kaasgrahen, Vienna, which is served by six Oblates. At Artstetten, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand gave them charge of the parish (1907) and assisted them to build a school. With the consent of the German Government, Cardinal Fischer gave them the church of Marienburg in 1910. Several Fathers are engaged in mission work. The English province founded its novitiate in Wilmington, Delaware, 23 September, 1903, and transferred it to Childs, Md. (1907). A scholasticate is attached. The Fathers in Wilmington conduct a high school for boys, and are chaplains of several religious communities, the county alms-house, the state insane hospital, the Ferris Industrial School for boys, and the county and state prison. In 1910 the parish of St. Francis de Sales, Salisbury, Md. (1209 square miles with a population of 70,000), was confided to the Oblates.
In Walmer (Kent, England ) they have a boarding school for boys, the chaplaincy of the Visitation Convent and Academy of Roselands, and a small parish in Faversham. To this province belongs the Vicariate Apostolic of the Orange River. (For the Vicariate Apostolic of the Orange River and the Apostolic Prefecture of Great Namaqualand, see ORANGE RIVER, VICARIATE APOSTOLIC OF THE.)
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