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Father Louis Brisson
Mother Frances de Sales Aviat

Father Louis Brisson

His Early Days

On June 23, 1817, Louis Brisson was born in Plancy, France, a small town in the religiously and culturally rich Champagne district. Louis was the only child of Toussaint and Savine Brisson, a good and pious couple. Louis was educated by his parents, eventually journeying to Troyes, France to join the Seminary where he excelled in his studies of Theology, Physics and Chemistry.

Priesthood

After his Ordination to the Priesthood, Fr. Brisson taught in the Seminary and became the chaplain of the Visitation Sisters. It was the Superior of the Visitation Monastery, Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis, who first told Fr. Brisson that he was being called to found congregation of priests who would live according to the spirit of St. Francis de Sales. The young priest resisted until Our Lord himself appeared to him in the Visitation parlor, leading him to understand that it was his will and that he had to obey.

 


Father Louis Brisson

Beginning New Works

In the 1850's, Fr. Brisson became concerned about the young girls coming to industrialized Troyes to work in the factories. They had nowhere to live and no guidance or direction. After trying unsuccessfully to provide for their needs with the aid of lay directresses, Fr. Brisson asked Leonie Aviat and Lucie Canuet, two graduates of the Visitation School, to join him in this work. They were to become the nucleus of an active community of women who would devote themselves to this work and to all that God would ask of them.

On April 11, 1866, the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters was founded. This was followed by the Oblate Fathers and Brothers who fulfilled the desire of St. Francis de Sales to have priests formed in his spirit and according to his heart.

Fr. Brisson worked tirelessly to expand these two Congregations, founding many schools and other works. Throughout the difficulties that were bound to occur, he continued to guide his daughters and sons in the spirit of the gentle de Sales.

Final Days

Religious persecution in France drove both Congregations out of the country, relocating their central houses near Rome. Fr. Brisson retired to his parents' home in Plancy where he died peacefully, surrounded by his sons and daughters, on February 2, 1908.

Although the persecution in France drove the Oblates from many of their works, the Congregations continued to do the work that God entrusted to them. Many of the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers were able to remain in France in lay dress in order to keep the schools and other apostolates open. After the conclusion of World War II, they were able to return freely to France. Their work continues today in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The Oblate Fathers and Brothers have expanded their ministry to India.

Father Brisson's Cause for Canonization has been introduced in Rome. The Oblate family awaits the day of his Beatification, and eventual Canonization, with great joy.

Important events in Father Brisson's life:

Born

June 23, 1817

Plancy, France

Ordained

December 19, 1840

Chalons, France

Professed

August 27, 1876

Troyes, France

Deceased

February 2, 1908

Plancy, France

Inspired by the Holy Spirit and encouraged by the Venerable Mother Mary de Sales Chappuis, Father Louis Brisson founded his two Oblate congregations to serve the people of his time and to spread the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales.

Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales - April 11, 1866
Oblate Fathers and Brothers - August 27, 1876


Mother Frances de Sales Aviat

Birth of a Saint

Although September 16, 1844 seemed like any other day, it was destined to be known one day as the birth date of a saint! Leonie Aviat was born in Sezanne, in the region of Champagne, France.

She attended the Visitation School in Troyes, where Mother Marie de Sales Chappuis and Father Louis Brisson exerted a profound influence on her. Having thus been formed at the school of St. Francis de Sales, she prepared herself for the mission with which she was to be entrusted: the foundation of a congregation committed to Salesian spirituality and to the evangelization of young workers.

Beginnings

The beginnings came in the year 1866. This was the time when large industrial concerns were attracting an underpaid labor force to the cities. This was the case in the city of Troyes, where spinning mills engaged young girls from the countryside.

Father Brisson, a zealous apostle, had opened, in 1858, a center where he would welcome young girls working in the mills. He decided, under God's inspiration, to establish a religious congregation to direct this important work. He found in Leonie Aviat an incomparable co-worker and a zealous apostle, like himself.

This young lady, who had earlier felt an attraction toward the contemplative life of the Visitation Order, was affected by the plight of young factory workers and felt herself called to the active apostolate. Thus the new congregation of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales came to be founded. The congregation placed itself under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, and identified completely with the spirituality and the educational principles of the holy Bishop of Geneva.

Loving Guidance

In 1868, the young foundress received, together with the religious habit, the significant name of Sister Frances de Sales. She made profession of vows on October 11, 1871. In 1872, she became the first Superior General of the Institute.

Under her guidance, the community grew in numbers, the social apostolate unfolded and girls' schools were opened. In Paris, the first residence for young ladies was started, an establishment which Mother Aviat directed for eight years. Thus, the apostolate of the Oblate Sisters extended to the different classes of society and to diverse forms of education.

After a period of difficulty through which so many foundresses must live in order to put down solid roots of holiness for their Congregations, Mother Frances de Sales guided her Sisters through the religious persecution in her native France and developed the works of the Congregation in Europe, South America and Africa. While maintaining the establishments that could be continued in France, she transferred the Motherhouse to Perugia, Italy.

Canonization

On January 10, 1914 she died in Perugia after entrusting herself totally to God. To her last breath, she remained faithful to the resolution she had taken at the time of her profession: "To forget myself entirely." To her daughters she left, for all time, the very Salesian precept: "Let us work for the happiness of others." She was beatified in 1992 and canonized on November 25, 2001.

 

 

Important dates in the life of St. Leonie Aviat

Born Leonie Aviat

September 16, 1844

Sezanne, France

Entered into Religious Life

April 11, 1866

Troyes, France

Received habit

October 30, 1868

Troyes, France

Professed

October 11, 1871

Troyes, France

Exiled from France

April 11, 1904

 

Deceased

January 10, 1914

Perugia, Italy

Decree of Heroicity of Virtues

December 1, 1978

 

Beatified

September 27, 1992

 

Canonized

November 25, 2001