The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (Latin: Oblati Sancti Francisci Salesii, O.S.F.S.) are a congregation of Roman Catholic priests and brothers who base their spirituality on the teachings of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. (The Oblate priests and brothers of St. Francis de Sales are affiliated with the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales.)
An order of cloistered nuns, the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, was found originally by Saint Francis de Sales at the request of Saint Jane de Chantal in 1610. The establishment of an Oratory at Thonon, where Saint Francis served as the first Provost, 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 Adge, 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 Venerable Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis (died 7 October 1875) and Venerable Abbé Louis Brisson, a professor in the Seminary of Troyes. In 1869, Fr Brisson established Saint Bernard Collège, near Troyes. In September 1871, Fr Gilbert (died 10 November 1909) joined him and Emmanuel-Jules Ravinet, Bishop of Troyes, received them and four companions into the novitiate.
Blessed Pope Pius IX approved temporarily their constitutions, 21 December 1875. The first vows were made 27 August 1876. The definitive approbation of their constitution was given on 8 December 1897.
Known officially as the DeSales-Oblates, the members of this religious order are of two ranks, clerics and lay-brothers. They engage in a wide variety of areas of service. Oblates are apostolates of education, parish work and foreign missions. They also work as teachers at religious and secular colleges and missionary areas as well as serving in military, campus, hospital, and convent chaplaincies and in inner-city social work.
The postulate period lasts from six to nine months and the novitiate period from one year to eighteen months. For the first three years following first vows, the Oblates renew their vows annually for three years, and then, they profess their perpetual vows. The order is governed by a superior general elected every six years; and five counsellors general elected by the general chapter.
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 Generalate was transferred to Rome, and the congregation divided into three provinces, by language family: Latin (France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, and South America), German(ic) (Austria, the German Empire and the southern half of its South-west African colony), and English (England, United States and the north-western part of Cape Colony).
Each province is administered by a provincial superior, appointed by the superior general and his council for four years. He is assisted by three counsellors elected at each provincial chapter, which meets every four years, at an interval of six years between the regular general chapters.
In the early 20th century they had the following membership:
The Latin province has a scholasticate at Albano Laziale. In 1909, the church of Sts. Celsus and Julian in Rome was entrusted to the Oblates. The novitiate for the Latin and German provinces is in Giove (Umbria). The Ecole Commerciale Ste Croix in Naxos (Greece) had about fifty pupils and the College St. Paul at Piræus (Athens) about two hundred. Four priests, stationed in Montevideo (Uruguay) performed mission work, running a flourishing Young Men's Association; in Brazil, three Fathers had the district of Don Pedrito do Sul, with a surface of 28,000 m² and a Catholic population of 20,000; the headquarters of the Uruguay-Brazil mission being at Montevideo, Uruguay. One Oblate was stationed in Ecuador, where before the Revolution of 1895 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(ic) province had a preparatory school of about forty students in the Village of Schmiding of Oberösterreich and charge of St. Anne's (French) church in Vienna, also the church of Our Lady of Dolours in Kaasgraben neighborhood of Döbling, Vienna, which is served by six Oblates. At Artstetten, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria gave them charge of the parish, in 1907, and assisted them to build a school. With the consent of the German Government, Cardinal Fischer entrusted the church of Marienburg[disambiguation needed] in 1910. Several Fathers were engaged in mission work.
In Walmer (Kent, England) they operated a boarding school for boys, the chaplaincy of the Visitation Convent and Academy of Roselands and a small parish in Faversham. To this province belonged the Apostolic Vicariate of Orange River.
In 1893, the first Oblates priests came to the United States, serving chaplaincies in the New York City area. In 1906, the first English speaking province was established in Wilmington, Delaware. After early years of modest expansion, the American Province flourished during the forties and fifties with many vocations from schools it conducted in the Wilmington, Philadelphia, Toledo, Detroit, and Niagara Falls areas.
In 1966, the American Province was split into the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province, which encompassed the eastern & southern states, and the Toledo-Detroit Province, which encompassed the central & western states.
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