Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFSFounder
Blessed Louis Brisson, OSFS, co-founder of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales was born on June 23, 1817, in Plancy, France, the only child of Toussaint and Savine Brisson. He was educated by a local priest who had a large library. Louis read everything; he had a special interest in the sciences.
Brisson was ordained a priest on December 19, 1840. He began as an instructor at the Visitation School in Troyes. He then became chaplain to the Sisters of the Visitation. Mother Marie Therese de Sales Chappuis, the superior, told him many times that the Lord wanted Louis to found a society of priests who would live the Spiritual Directory of St. Francis de Sales and promote Salesian Spirituality. Brisson refused; Chappuis was persistent in her demands.
One day after again arguing with Mother Chappuis, Christ appeared to Louis. As he looked into the Lord’s eyes, Louis’ heart was converted and he gave his consent to follow the Good Mother’s direction.
In 1859, Brisson opened a home for girls working in textile factories. Louis needed he help of religious for his girls’ homes and invited (St.) Leonie Aviat to begin a new congregation, the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales.
On August 27, 1876, Louis and five other priests professed vows as Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. Louis instructed both Oblate communities: “Hold the child in high esteem and instead of frustrating, lend a hand to the work grace accomplishes in these young souls.”
Louis argued with the bishop over authority in the Oblates. In 1881, he spoke with Pope Leo XIII and accepted a foreign mission which put the governance of the Oblates under the Pope through the Propagation of the Faith.
In 1887, Brisson finished the biography of Mother Chappuis for the opening of her cause for beatification. On December 7, 1887, the Constitutions of the Oblates were approved by Rome for ten years. Final approbation came from Rome on December 7, 1897.
In the early 1900's, the French government closed religious houses in France. The Oblates transferred their General House to Rome. Because he was too old to travel, Fr. Brisson went to his family home in Plancy. He died on February 2, 1908, with Mother Leonie Aviat, OSFS, and Oblate priests at his bedside.
Taken from Spending a Month with Louis Brisson, compiled by Michael S. Murray, OSFS.
Mary de Sales Chappuis, VHMCo-Foundress
Co-foundress of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, was born in Soyhieres, Switzerland in 1793. At the age of twelve he had been sent to the Visitation Monastery in Fribourg as a boarding student, and entered that community at the age of twenty-two. When she became superior at the Monastery at Troyes, it soon became evident that she not only had great gifts as an administrator, but also great spiritual gifts. For the rest of her life she was alternately either Superior or Mistress of Novices at various Visitation Monasteries. In 1844, when she returned to Troyes from Paris, she again became Superior of this monastery. The monastery now had a young diocesan priest as its chaplain by the name of Fr. Louis Brisson.
The relationship between Mother Chappuis and Father Brisson could not have been more different than between Saints Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. In this relationship the “Good Mother” was clearly the innovator and leader. Immediately upon her return from Paris, Chappuis began hinting to Fr. Brisson of some great work that he would do for Christ. “What you are doing is of course very good, but what you are going to do will have much greater results.” One day she finally told him directly that he was to found a society of priests under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales which will work for the same aims Francis held. Fr. Brisson was reluctant but gave in to her wishes – and indeed the will of God.
To the end Mother Chappuis advised, strengthened and directed Fr. Brisson in his foundation of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. She died on October 7, 1785.