Founder Of MSFS
Fr. Peter Marie Mermier, our Founder, was born on 28th August 1790 in Savoy, France. At the time of his birth the population of Savoy was almost rural. The towns and villages had only a few craftsmen and shop-keepers. At the cost of hard work and strict economy, the people eked out their living by the cultivation of their land and by grazing their cattle on the mountains. Fr. Mermier's father, Francois Mermier who belonged to a race of landowners and a family of good standing, was a peasant and the son had inherited all the qualities of a peasant: good sense, practical mind, prudent audacity, tenacious and calm perseverance. His mother, Antionette Bastian was a pious and devout woman to whom Fr. Mermier owed his fine and alert mind, his social sense and above all his first initiation into faith and sound piety. God had the first place in the home of the Mermiers. Fr. Mermier once said: "I repent for not having written anything about my mother. My God, how much I owe her. No, no, she was not an ordinary woman".
It was the time of 'Reign of Terror' and little Mermier saw closing of the Church and the school of Chaumont, the belfry pulled down, the bells destroyed and the presbytery deserted. He heard his parents and others whispering about the events which devastated the country, about the priests arrested and sent to prison and to penal servitude. He was highly impressed by the lively faith of his mother and her love for God. She made her house a shelter for the faithful priests hunted down by the revolutionaries. She received them with cordial respect. He saw her comforting them, sheltering them, watching over their safety under her roof and providing them with some provisions for their departure. And when on Sundays a priest celebrated Holy Mass in the house, Peter Mermier used to remain close to his mother. He felt so happy to see her pray and receive holy communion. Later on Fr. Mermier would say, "I owe my vocation to the holiness of my mother".
In the year 1800 religious peace was re-established in Savoy. So he could attend residential schools from 1801. Fr. Marin Ducrey was the director of the school at Melan where Peter completed his studies. He was an exemplary student, a model of virtues.
In the Autumn of the year 1807, Peter joined the Seminary in Chambery. He was an intelligent and hard working seminarist, kind to his companions. Peter Mermier was ordained Priest on 21st March 1813. He was only twenty two and a half years old.
The young Priest was appointed assistant parish priest at Magland, a countryside parish in April 1813. A perfect community life, harmony and fervour characterised his relationship with the parish priest whom he chose as his spiritual director. Fervour and kindness marked his apostolate among the people. Besides, he spent some time daily for theological studies.
In 1816, Fr. Mermier was transferred to the residential school of Melan where Fr. Ducrey wanted the services of his former disciple. He loved children, taught them and helped poor children financially.
Everything was going on well. But in 1816 Fr. Mermier interceded on behalf of Polycarp Voisin, an excellent student whom Fr. Ducrey, a strict disciplinarian wanted to dismiss. The director granted the favour and became unhappy about it. Polycarp Voisin later became a missionary.
Fr. Mermier went through a period of hesitation. He was attracted to the foreign missions. He had also an attraction for religious life and thought of joining the Society of JesuIn 1819, Fr. Mermier was appointed Parish Priest of Le Chatelard-en-Bauges, a dechristianized countryside parish. He worked with love and zeal for the spiritual renewal of the people but they remained indifferent. Some new initiative was necessary to touch their hearts. So Fr. Mermier decided to preach a parish mission and invited Fr. Joseph Marie Favre to help him. They began the mission on 18th November 1821. Only a few people came to attend. Disappointed, both preachers stopped the mission, went to La Grande Chartreuse, a famous Carthusian Monastery to pray and do penance.
People came to know about it. When they returned, the parishoners came in great numbers. The mission turned out to be a great success. Both friends decided to dedicate themselves to this special form of apostolate. In 1825, Fr. Mermier was given permission to be a full time preacher. From 1826, a small group of preachers began to form around him. They began to feel the need of a community to support their spiritual life and apostolate. After passing through various vicissitudes, the mission team became a closely built community living a simple, humble, joyful common life under the leadership of Fr. Mermier. On 24th October 1838, Bishop Rey gave them his approval and established them as a religious Congregation, the Missionaries of St. Francis De Sales, under the title and patronage of St. Francis de Sales.
The newly founded Congregation did immense services to the diocese of Savoy and particularly to that of Annecy. During the life-time of Fr. Mermier, the missionaries of St. Francis de Sales with the support of diocesan priests preached 573 missions in 226 parishes besides numerous retreats and similar exercises.
Fr. Mermier considered the vocation of a missionary as something beautiful, challenging, demanding total surrender to the divine providence and absolute renunciation of self will. He began negotiations to take up missions, preferably in Africa, for the evangelization of peoples in 1843. But in 1845, the Holy See entrusted to the missionaries of St. Francis de Sales the Visakhapatnam Mission which then comprised of nearly one third of India. The first batch of missionaries reached Pondicherry on 8th September 1845 and Visakhapatnam on 19th February 1846. Ever since, the MSFS have generously and powerfully contributed to the development of the church in India. The needs of the diocese of Annecy turned the attention of Fr. Mermier to another form of apostolate.
The prospects of training professors for schools in the missions in India and the hope of promoting vocations encouraged the founder to accept taking up schools. In the, autumn of 1856, the college of Evian and that of Melan were handed over to the missionaries. In the latter the Founder was a student and later professor in 1857.
Fr. Mermier insisted on constantly reviewing educational problems, a constant, affectionate, kindly presence among children and opening the hearts and minds of children to the presence of God. Fr. Mermier was open to the problems of the times. It led him to take daring initiatives.
The ancient system of patrimony meant that many young women in the country districts were left penniless. They found themselves with nowhere to go and nobody to turn to in their old age. It was not only education they lacked; they had neither dowry nor training for their marriage or the religious life as it was then known. They had no option but to utterly depend on relatives and employers who offered scarcely any favourable conditions for keeping faith and morals intact. It was to be at the service of these poor rural girls and to make them dignified and useful members of the society and the church that Fr. Mermier, together with Claudine Echernier, a village girl from Feternes, Savoy, founded the Daughters of the Cross of Chavanod. Bishop Rey gave the formal approval on 4th November 1841.
Though the Decree of Commendation (Decretum Laudis) which is the first step towards the approbation of the congregation was granted on 2nd June 1843, it was only on 19th May 1860 that the Sacred congregation of Bishops and Regulars gave the final approval. On 11th June 1858, Fr. Mermier suffered a stroke but he recovered. On 6th June 1860, he suffered another severe attack. Though doctors had given him up, he was able to be on his feet again within seven days. In 1861, he had the joy of hearing the establishment of the congregation in England through the kind services of Captain Dewel. Fr. Larive reached England on 24th May 1862.
Fr. Mermier had a fall on 10th August 1862. He suffered a double fracture of his leg. His condition grew worse. He received the sacrament of the sick on 29th September and fell asleep in the Lord in the morning on 30th September 1862. In 1903, the MSFS lost their mother house at Annecy along with the tombs of the holy founder and other early missionaries as it became the property of the state. Hence another house adjacent to it was bought making it the mother house. About six decades later, the state authorities, while digging at the site of the old mother house found the tombs of Fr. Mermier and other early MSFS confreres. It is said that when the grave of Fr. Mermier was opened in the presence of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities his body was found incorrupt, with even the vestments intact. Soon the mortal remains of the venerable founder and the other holy men were transferred to the new house on 24th October, 1960. The process of glorification of Fr. Peter Mermier has already begun and as the first step towards it he is declared as Servant of God.
Fr. Mermier had a forceful and attractive personality. He was docile, patient and loyal, totally dedicated to the pursuit of his vocation and mission. He learnt from others before proceeding to teach them. He had the gift of assimilating the intellectual and emotional influences of the society at his time. He made himself totally available to God's will and offered himself, to the people, to the society like another St. Francis De Sales, totally disinterested, filled with zeal for the salvation of souls.
St. Francis de Sales, our Patron, was born on 21st August 1567 at Thorens, Savoy, near Geneva in Switzerland and Annecy in France. The parents of Francis were Francis de Sales, generally known as Monsieur de Boisy and Francoise de Sionnaz commonly known as Madame de Boisy. Monsieur de Boisy, by his life, example and firm guidance taught Francis to be an honest, sincere, frank, straightforward and courageous boy with a great sense of justice, kindness, generosity and integrity. From his father, he learned a manly devotion while from his mother he inherited a kind, compassionate and affectionate heart and tender devotion.
In 1573, Francis was sent to a school at La Roche, near Thorens when he was six years old. From 1575, he continued his studies in the school of Chappuis at Annecy. On 17th December 1575, he made his First Communion and received Confirmation. Thereupon he made two major resolutions: he would visit the Blessed Sacrament everyday and would try to learn from the saints how they attained sainthood. On 20th September 1578 Francis received tonsure as he desired to become a priest and belong to the Church entirely.
In September 1578, Monsieur de Boisy sent Francis with his cousins to Paris for higher education. Francis joined the college of Clermont run by the Jesuits. There he studied literature, philosophy and learned arts like fencing, riding, dance etc., befitting nobles. He followed courses in theology for his own satisfaction.
From December 1586 to January 1587, Francis underwent a terrible crisis. There were several causes: his natural tendency to anxiety and the problem of predestination, keenly discussed in theological circles in those days. Above all, there was a mystical dimension to the trial: an unselfish, pure love of God and total surrender to him in which lay the answer to his problems as he was being tempted to despair of his salvation.
One day in January 1587, Francis went into the church of Saint Etienne des Gres. He went to the chapel of our Lady and knelt down in front of the statue. He was inspired to make an unconditional surrender of his salvation to God. Then he saw there a card with the prayer Memorare: "Remember, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary" He took it and earnestly prayed it. He was instantly healed. The temptation vanished. Strength and confidence returned to him.
In 1588, Francis completed his studies in Paris and returned to Savoy. On 26th December 1588 he was sent to Padua, to pursue his studies further. He had only a short stay at home. In Padua, he studied civil and ecclesiastical law. He also followed courses in theology.
In January 1591 Francis became very seriously ill and received viaticum. There was scarcely any hope of recovery. All the same he was healed. On 5th September 1591 he completed his legal Studies for a Doctorate in law and passed the examination with such great success that he won the admiration of his own professors and of all present. In February 1592 Francis returned to Savoy. He wanted to become a priest. His father was strongly opposed to it. On 24th November 1592 not to displease his father, he enrolled himself as an advocate at the Bar of Chambery.
It was while returning from Chambery on horseback that his belt got unbuckled and his sword fell to the ground. His sword came out of the scabbard with its point directed towards him. Francis understood this to be a clear sign that God wanted him to put aside the sword in order to become a Priest. On 7th March 1593, the document appointing Francis as Provost was signed by Roman authorities, through the mediation of Louis de Sales, his cousin and supported by his own Bishop, Mgr. de Granier. On 18th September 1593 Francis was ordained deacon, and on 18th December 1593 he was ordained priest by his own Bishop Mgr. de Granier and after three day's recollection, on 21st December, he celebrated his first mass. After Christmas, he was installed as Provost. As a priest he devoted himself to the spiritual renewal of Annecy. He preached in a simple style, taught catechism and tried to form a dedicated and devoted laity. The ideal of a priest as a man of God, a man of the church and a man of the people blended harmoniously in his life and activity. This ideal was soon to be put to the test.
The district of Chablais in Savoy under the Duke of Savoy had embraced Calvinism. The animosity between Catholics and Protestants had reached it zenith. Churches were destroyed, houses burnt and Catholics and Protestants were at war with each other. The Duke requested the Bishop to send missionaries to Chablais to win the people back to the Catholic faith. The Bishop asked for volunteers. Francis and his cousin volunteered and Bishop de Granier entrusted this mission to Francis and his cousin, Louis de Sales.
On I4th September 1594 both Francis and Louis left for Chablais and reached the castle of Les AIlinges. Thonon was the headquarters of the district. Thonon was not safe for the missionaries as the Calvinists were in no mood to tolerate the presence of Catholic missionaries. So they had to stay in the castle with the soldiers and go daily to Thonon in the morning and come back in the evening. The initial work was extremely hard. They regularly visited the few Catholics in the town of Thonon and began instructing them. Francis also began to contact the Calvinists. The Calvinist ministers forbade the people to receive the Catholic priests and even to listen to them. Calumnies against Francis were circulated. There was constant threat to his life. No one came to listen to him. Every door was closed to him.
Then Francis took a new initiative. He began to write short notices explaining Catholic teaching and left them at the door of the houses of the Protestants. From January 1595 to January 1596 he wrote these articles which were later published as a book, the Controversies. This was one of the most trying periods of his life. He prayed, fasted and did penance, perhaps a little more than his body could support. There was utter poverty. His bishop was too poor and continued to encourage him. The Duke gave him no financial support. M. de Boisy had disapproved his taking up the mission and did his best to persuade him to come back. So he did not help him in any way. Slowly a change for the better began. People began to discuss with him. They flocked to his sermons. Conversions followed. Within a few years, the whole district returned to the Catholic fold. On 1st October 1596 Pope Clement VIII asked Francis to meet Theodore de Beze, the successor of Calvin in Geneva, and try to bring about his conversion. Francis met de Beze in Geneva three times during the year 1597 but these meetings met with no success.
From 1594 Bishop de Granier was thinking of making Francis his Co-adjutor Bishop, and from 1596 the Duke too wanted the same. It was time for ad limina visit to Rome. Bishop de Granier did not enjoy good health. So he decided to send Francis to Rome.
In November 1597, Francis was to leave for Rome but he fell very seriously sick. Only by the end of January 1598, he regained health. The journey was postponed. There were works to be immediately attended to. So only in November 1598, Francis could leave for Rome. After Christmas, Pope Clement VIII gave him audience. On 22nd March 1599 Francis passed brilliantly the examination in the presence of the Pope for nomination to a bishopric. Among the examiners were the great and learned men of the day, the Cardinals, Frederic Borromeo, Bellarmin (later declared saint and doctor of the church), Baronius and Borghese. At the end of the examination the Pope, so much impressed by Francis' answers, came down and embraced him. On 1st June 1599 Francis was back in Annecy. He continued his ministry. In 1602 Francis was sent to Paris to meet King Henry IV to treat with him some ecclesiastical affairs. In September of the same year he left Paris for Annecy. On the way he learned that Mgr. de Granier had passed away. In the beginning of November 1602 Francis received the papal bulls of his nomination as Bishop, which due to poverty, he had not asked for earlier. On 8th December 1602 Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva in the Church of Thorens. The time of the consecration was for Francis, a time of deep spiritual experience of the Holy Trinity. The Bishop of Geneva was chased away from the see of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. In 1536, the citizens of Geneva embraced the Reformation. Geneva became a republic. From that time the Bishops appointed to the see of Geneva stayed in Annecy with the hope of returning to the centre of the diocese when the situation changed. They kept the title of Bishop of Geneva.
Francis was rather unlike many of the Bishops of his own days as well as our own. He was easily accessible to everyone. He heard confessions regularly and gave spiritual direction to numerous persons, men and women of various ranks living in different life-situations and wrote numerous letters of direction. At the same time, he was equally available to princes, dukes, bishops, clergy, religious, both men and women and to the people at large especially the poor and the sick.
In 1608 Francis published the most popular book and the best seller of his times, the Introduction to the Devout Life. It was to help both his directees and Christians to lead an authentic Christian life.
On 6th June 1610 St. Francis founded the Congregation of the Visitation of Holy Mary. The objectives in founding this Order was to offer the possibility of leading a religious life to humble, weak women who because of their age or some physical weakness, cannot have access to austere reformed monasteries. They are offered this opportunity provided they are healthy in mind and willing to live a life of humility, obedience, simplicity, gentleness and resignation. Thus he did not neglect the cripples, the one-eyed, the hunchbacks, the lame in body or the lame in the soul. They must strive to achieve a strong love. The co-foundress was Madame de Chantal, a widow who later became St. Jane de Chantal.
While the Introduction to the Devout Life laid a very good foundation for Christian life, it did not explain in detail the growth and experience of divine love. From 1609 to 1616, Francis used all the free moments available for the writing of his second classic, the Treatise on the Love of God. It was published in August 1616. The experience of St Francis himself and that of St. Jane de Chantal and the First Sisters of the Visitation Order he founded form the background of this book.
St. Francis was a mediator and peace-maker. He listened to the contenders with patience and impartiality. His gentleness and kindness brought calm to the angry, made them see reason and accept his decisions. He was a known preacher too. There was perfect harmony between the preaching of St. Francis and his life and activity. St Francis believed and taught that a spiritual director was necessary to guide people to the perfection of love without going astray, wasting time and strength. The letters of spiritual direction written by him to his directees are a mine of wisdom and spiritual and psychological insights. He cherished an intimate friendship with his directees. This friendship earned him their confidence. It made the sacrifices he demanded from them less hard. St. Francis achieved a wonderful harmony in his own life and thought. Philosophy, theology and mysticism blended harmoniously in him.
On 27th December 1622, Francis had an attack of apoplexy which caused a clot of blood in the brain. He succumbed to it and passed away on 28th December, the feast of Holy Innocents about 8 O' clock in the evening. He was just 55.
On 28th December 1661, Francis de Sales was beatified by Pope Alexander VII. On 19th April 1665 Blessed Francis de Sales was canonized by the same Pope. On 16th November 1877, Pope Pius IX declared him Doctor of the Church and in 1923 Pope Pius XI declared him as the Patron of Catholic Writers and Journalists.
The spirit and spirituality of Saint Francis De Sales is as much a relevant message in the modern times as it was during his life time. It is a spirituality of the Heart - first make Jesus live in one's Heart and then in one's tongue, in the eyes, in the hands etc. Francis de Sales exhorts each one to live a life of holiness according to one's vocation living it in the midst of the world, seeking the movement of the Spirit of God in the heart and life of each one, recognizing that every situation, good or bad, pleasant or painful, is revelatory of God's Will and that one must bloom where one is planted.
History Of SFSCA
Saint Francis de sales College (SFSC), Aalo, established in the year 2007 is administered and managed by the MSFS Fathers also known as the Fransalians, who are called to be enlightened guides of their students. The MSFS Fathers have more 170 years of experience and expertise in imparting quality higher education all over the world.
S F S College is an Institution with a secular outlook. It admits students from all walks of life, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, tribe and language to be part of this institute of Higher learning. It is affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi Central University, Itanagar. It was established with the motto "LIGHT TO ENLIGHTEN". The MSFS Fathers are systematically, definitely and purposively committed to forming the present generation for the future through more than 100 quality Educational Institutions in India. SFS College, Aalo, meets fittingly and fully all the educational institutional requirements of the students of this hilly, enchanting and beautiful "land of the dawn lit mountains".
college is named after Saint Francis De Sales (SFS). We believe that, true education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of their ultimate goal in life and the good of the society.
"St Francis De Sales College Society" (SF/ITA/3571) is a registered charitable society and the Provincial Superior is its defacto president. Dr. (Fr.) George Panthanmakkal MSFS is the present Provincial. It is the realization of the great vision and hard works many pioneering fathers of MSFS in Arunachal Pradesh. SFS College at present offers Honours in Sociology, English, Political Science, history and Geography. A magnificent building, often described as the "the best college building in Arunachal Pradesh" stand as an edifice to the commitment of the MSFS Fathers towards the education and service to the "Galos" and "Adis" of the "Siang Districts".
The college though has a long way to go ahead, is still proud of itself in terms of what it has been able to achieve so far. The students are a happy lot over here. The NSS activities, Women's Forum, Annual Cultural and Sports competitions, provide ample opportunities for them to grow up as responsible citizens of the country. We are glad to have a group of dedicated and hardworking Teaching and Non Teaching Staff.