Superior General’s Newsletter – 2 – March-April 2007

Centenary of the Death of Fr. Brisson

The year 2008 will be for us, Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and the Oblate Sisters, the centenary of the death of our founder. This event, by itself, invites us to deepen our understanding of the life of Fr. Brisson. There are many ways that we can direct our attention to the founder. We can strive to understand how God’s intentions were manifest in his life, how he received them and how he strove to live in accordance with them. We can also focus on the life and the works of our founder, striving to better understand our charism as Oblates, and our mission in the Church and in today’s world. In any case, this occasion is more than opportune for us to return to him who was the great instrument of God’s choice to initiatie our existence historically as a religious Congregation. I would like to invite to all the Provinces/Regions to incluide, in their programming for the coming year the deepening of our understanding of Fr. Brisson’s life. The approach taken for this, obviously, may be in accordance with the necessities of each Province/Region. In any case, we are at a special moment in our history. Let us not loose this opportunity to renew in our vocation and our mission as his children.

“My eyes have seen”

I am not a specialist in Fr. Brisson. Nor have I had much time to prepare a reflection to share with you. But last May, Fr. Sebastian Leitner invited me to give a retreat to our confreres in the Asian mission during the month of May of this year. He asked that the subject be on Fr. Brisson. Despite the total change in my ministry since August of last year, I have kept the intention of preparing and giving this retreat.

Recently I have reread the work of the Fr. Prosper Dufour (4th Superior General, from 1937 to 1949) on the life and the works of our founder. It is this on work that I base the following reflections.

When celebrating his diamond jubilee as priest in 1900, Fr. Brisson distributed a card as souvenir of the event. On the reverse side he placed a small prayer: “I am thankful to you, my God, for having called me to know, to love and to serve you”, and, then added, the biblical text of the aged Simon: “Now, Lord, as you promised, you may leave your servant to go in peace. Because my eyes have seen your salvation, that you have prepared before all peoples”. The words “have seen” were in boldface. “I make a point of it, – Fr. Brisson used to say - to thus affirm the appearance with which Our Lord gratified me. This is the dominant event of my life… It was this apparition that dictated to me what I had to do”.

The history of the appearance of Our Lord to our founder is very well known by all Oblates. It has been written and rewritten in diverse reflections. We all know that this experience on the 24th of February of 1845 was what made him give his consent to the will of God, already expressed previously at different moments and in different forms. The fact that Fr. Brisson himself, 55 years later, recognized this to be “the dominant event of my life” does not leave doubts on the decisive character of that experience.

Years ago, participating in a meeting on spiritual direction at the Conference of Religious in the south of Brazil, a religious Brother shared with us his prayer life. He said that, each night, after having  prayed “Because my eyes have seen your salvation”, he paused to make its examination of conscience on the day that had passed. He questioned himself where and when he had “seen” the salvation of God during the day that was ending.

At the age of 28, in the monastery of the Visitation the young Father Brisson not only saw the Saviour by his eyes. In that very experience his heart and mind saw God disclosing His holy will. But there is more to the story than this. The history of his life reveals that he educated himself interiorly in a dynamic that made him continuously attentive to the presence of Savior in his life and the events in his surroundings. His interior life of union with God led him constantly to read and to see God’s presence in his life. An example of this comes readily to mind when he reflects on one of his interesting handy works, result of his interest in physics, the clock which he made. Mentioning the clock, he said to the Oblates Sisters: “I like to work with the clock; it relaxes me because there I meet God. Busying myself with it, I say to the Savior that all the minutes of my life belong to Him, and I offer to Him as many acts of love as there are movements of the pendulum.” And he adds: “I ask God that this clock gives you the feeling of the presence of God, the gift of prayer; fidelity, and exactness to God’s designs”.

We see in this that our founder shows himself to be an authentic son of St. Francis de Sales. We know that an uninterrupted life of union with God is central to our spirituality. It is always good to come back to this point, and to evaluate, in a real and concrete way, how we are living this essential point of our life as Oblates.

This reading on the reflections that stayed with our founder during the making of his famous clock drive us to reflect on the today‘s wonderful works made by human hands. I think, for example, about the wonder that is the computer and the Internet. In practice how many hours a day or a week many of us use these wonderful products of technology? Are we capable of being fascinated by these works?  Are we capable of saying, as did Fr. Brisson: “The more a work is perfect, more it comes closer to what God has made”? Does our contact with these wonders of the technology direct us to God as his work did for Fr. Brisson: “Hearing the clock, we must think about God who is so great, so powerful, so immense”?

This dynamic of the interior life of union with God gave our founder a strong personality, which attracted hearts by the spontaneous cordiality of his welcoming. Whoever was with him had the impression to being in the presence of a man of God, a man who permanently nourished his actions by the depth of his interior life. His exterior composure was amiable, hiding an energetic will which was really necessary for the great responsibilities which he carried on his shoulders and for the challenges in assuming initiatives that required audacity and determination.

May the celebration of the centenary of his death bring us to identify ourselves more fully with his way of living our consecration to God, especially in the service to the most poor.

New Postulator and the situation of Fr. Brisson’s Cause

In my previous letter I mentioned the necessity of nominating, due to advanced age and the illness of Fr. Emilio Testa, a postulator for the cause of our founder, Fr. Brisson. As you already know, Fr. Testa departed for our Father’s dwelling place on the 8th of November of the last year. On behalf of the entire Congregation, I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to the Italian Province for having freed this confrere who, for many years, carried forward the cause of our founder before the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Fr. Testa was also the Postulator for the cause of the now Saint Leonie Aviat. Her canonization in 2001 was Fr. Testa’s crowning achievement after many years of dedication. May our good God grant him the joy of the eternal life.

The persons who introduced our Founder’s cause before the Congregation for Saints’ Causes were the Oblate Sisters. Therefore, it fell upon the General Superior, Madre Françoise Bernadette Beuzelin, to present someone to substitute Fr. Emilio Testa as postulator. She presented Sister Madeleine-Thérèse, Oblate Sister of St. Francis de Sales, as the new postulator. Sr.Madeleine-Thérèse was officially accepted in this function a few days ago by the Congregation for Saints’ Causes. Let us keep her and her services in our prayers.

Our confrere Fr. Thomas Dailey will follow closely the work of Sr. Madeleine-Thérèse, and will assist her whenever necessary, and will keep us abreast of the progress of our founder’s process.

Dealing specifically with the current situation of Fr. Brisson’s cause - Many of you ought to remember that in 2005 there was a meeting of theologians of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, during which seven members voted in favor and two gave the cause a “suspensive” vote. The doubts and questions that were expressed by the theologians have been answered by the Fr. Testa and Fr. Beaudoin (the “relator”). There is an expectation that there will soon be a meeting of the members (Cardinals e Bishops) of the Congregation and that, at this meeting, a position on the cause of our Founder will be taken. If the position be positive, the next step will be for the Head of the Congregation to present the cause to the Holy Father, who, then, could issue the Decree of Heroic Virtue. Fr. Brisson, then, would be considered “Venerable”. The next step would be to provide the necessary documentation giving evidence of a miracle attributed to intercession of Fr. Louis Brisson.

Taking into account the current situation of our Founder’s cause, and considering the approaching centenarian of his death, I renew my invitation to communally pray insistently


Please visit and protect the family of the Oblate Sisters and of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales,
which is the vine your powerful hand has planted through the work of your Servant, Louis Brisson.
For the glory of your Name, make this family grow in your love, and grant to it, for the joy of the whole Church,
the recognition of the untiring zeal of its Founder for the Gospel and of his heroic courage in the midst of trials.

Meeting of the Superiors Maiores and Formation Personnel

By this time, certainly all the Major Superiors have received Fr. Sebastian Leitner’s letter on the Meeting of Major Superiors with Formation representatives. I have asked him to get in contact with Fr. Thomas Dailey, of DeSales University, in the United States, in order to deal with the details of the Meeting. In his letter Fr. Sebastian included some information on Meeting and also made specific requests in preparation for the meeting. Among these are the preparation of three written reports to be completed and mailed by the 1st of May, 2007 to Fr. Sebastian. One of these reports is to be completioned by the Provincial Superior /Regional; another by the formation personnel and, a third, by those in formation.

By inviting formation personnel to participate in this Meeting, we wish to respond to one of the directives determined by last General Chapter which asked that the General Council set up a meeting among those involved in the ministry of Oblate formation. “At that meeting they will share the elements of their formation program and compile and formulate common guidelines for formation in Oblate Spirituality, and decide on future meetings”. With this meeting at the end of July and the beginning of August we want to take the first one step in carrying out this request of the General Chapter.

The General Council was supportive of my inviting Fr. Lewis Fiorelli, my predecessor, to coordinate this process which we are initiating with the formation personnel in the Congregation. The process looks to formulating common directives for formation in our spirituality. Fr. Lewis Fiorelli’s spirit of leadership and his qualifications in the field of salesian spirituality are well known in the whole Congregation. Therefore, I know that this work is in good hands! Whole heartedly, I am thankful to Fr. Fiorelli for accepting the challenge to serve our Congregation in a field that is, for us, the highest priority - formation of future Oblates.

The Meeting will consist two parts. From July 25th until the 28th the Major Superiors and formation personnel will meet. From the 29th of July until the 2nd of August a Conference on Religious Life as Oblates, focusing on Education and Formation is planned. We invite each Major Superior to bring along up to two persons involved in formation.

The Generalate

For last the twelve years Fr. Francis J. Blood, of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province, resided at the Generalate in Rome. During all these years with a dedicated spirit he cared for the House, and, in a special way, for our guests - Oblates, familiy members, visitors and others. With the assignment of Deacon Marc Siefermann to the Generalate, Fr. Blood returned recently to his Province. It is more than just then, on behalf of all of us, that I express our gratitude to Fr. Blood for all these years of service to the Congregation. God alone knows all of the service that he gave to so many people, and in so many different forms, throughout these years. May our Good God be with him and bless him!

To Deacon Marc Siefermann I offer my thanks for his readiness and willingness to accept this service at the Generalate. To the South American Province I wish to express my gratitude for their gesture of understanding and goodness by freeing yet another confrere to serve the Congregation outside of the Province.

Chablais Mission Fund: New Stage

The last General Chapter approved a new structure for the functioning of the Chablais Mission Fund. Two commissions have been created: 1)  a Commission to raise financial resources and to manage the Fund, and 2) a Commission in charge of distribution of Fund’s resources. The members of the commissions are the following: First Commission: Fr. Joseph Morrissey (Chairman), Fr. Josef Költringer, Fr. Konrad Esser and Fr. Robert Mancini. The members of second Commission are: Fr. Josef Költringer (Chairman), Fr. Josef Lienhard, Fr. Joseph Ovis, and Fr. James Cryan.

Both commissions are defining directives and criteria that will serve to orient and to set guidelines for the success of the work. To give the legal support to the functioning of the Chablais Mission Fund a legal entity was approved as a corporate person. The General Council approved the establishment of this legal entity, with several clauses aimed at guaranteeing the stability and the credibility of the Fund. Legally it is a non-profit corporate juridic person with charitable and educational objectives.  I know that the confreres mentioned above as members of both commissions, are giving their best efforts in order to serve the whole Congregation. Beside these confreres, Fr. James O’ Neill is also involved in the Fund, doing the day-to-day work for the good and the continuing functioning of the Chablais Mission Fund. All these men deserve our best and most sincere gratefulness. The main reason of all this work is to help in a concrete way, yet in accordance with our possibilities, the  Regions  and mission areas of the Congregation which need financial support, either for our own confreres, or for formation or for  projects in favor of the poor. May God bless all of you for your dedication!

I know that diverse Provinces/Regions, as well as Oblates communities, and individual Oblates are making their contribution for the Chablais Fund, each according to their possibilities. I am thankful for all these gestures of generosity. It is important for us to continue with this common effort.  Through it we are helping confreres who, in fact, need our solidarity, either internally within the Congregation or pastorally in projects that benefit poor.

Centenary, New Province, New Government

At the beginning of February of 2007, in the now South American Province, there occurred important events and celebrations. On the 3rd of February in Palmeira das Missions, Rio Grande do Sul, the change in status from “Region” to “Province” was celebrated. This event was witnessed by various participants respresenting all of the Congregation in the world. It was more than appropriate that the Provinces which, during the one hundred years of our presence in the south of Brazil, had sent missionary confreres were remembered and that they participated of this event. To mark the centenary of our presence in southern Brazil we undertook a six day bus trip to the places where we Oblates had been or still are presently ministering.  These days were marked by a climate of prayer and thankfulness. Public expression of affection and hospitality in the places where we visited were not lacking. We participated in celebrations marked with creativity, with joy and enthusiasm, and with the use of many symbols. All of us felt renewed by the end of the week, which closed with the celebration of diaconal ordination of two confreres of the new Province.

Another significant moment was the election of the new Province’s government. Fr. Michael Moore was elected the Provincial Superior, and will have the mission to coordinate and to guide the members of the new Province during the next years. I would like to remind Fr. Michael and all who exercise leadership roles in the Congregation, what our Constitutions say in article 232: “Among the fundamental means for governing well are love and respect for one’s confreres, a profound spirit of faith and humility, a sense of personal responsibility, an overall vision of actual needs and an openness to them, decisiveness, good judgment, great patience, and an ability to relate well with others”. May God be your Light and your strength, Fr. Michael! May our salesian spirit and the divine grace guide to each member of the Provincial Council, chosen to serve the confreres of the new Province.

Another important moment in the new Province was the celebration of the First Profession of ten novices on the 23rd of February. On this occasion, six Haitians, two Ecuadorians, a Colombian and a Brazilian made their First Profession. On that celebration I remembered that we were at the vespers of the anniversary of the appearance of Our Lord to Fr. Brisson, on the 24th of February of 1845. We know what that event meant in the life of our Founder. It was the proof that he needed to be convinced of the will of God repeatedly revealed by the mouth of the Good Mother. That event took away all doubts, and meant a clear expression of the divine will in relation to his life and the foundation of the new Congregation. I said, during the celebration on that day, the 23rd of February, that I saw, in the decision of the ten young men to enter our Congregation, a sign of the divine confirmation of our presence and mission as Oblates in the world of today. God wants us, yes, alive and active! The living out of our charism continues, yes, to have a unique place in the Church and the world of today.

French province

In November Fr. Sebastian Leitner went with me on the canonical visit to the French Province. We began visiting the missionary community in Parakou, Benin. It was rewarding to witness the strong commitment of our confreres to the poor, and the extent to which they are esteemed by the people to whom they mission. In the letter that I wrote to the confreres of the Province, at the end of our visit, I emphasized the fact that the mission in the Benin is at a time of transition. The fact of now having four young native Oblates priests of Benin truly represents the beginning of a new stage of our presence in this truly mission land. They are the first fruits from seeds sown with much bravery by our French confreres who opened up new paths in Benin.  New horizons have opened. I suggested in relation to our presence and mission in the Benin, that a document should be elaborated which will serve as a guide pointing out our future steps in that Region.

In France it was enriching to see the persistence of our confreres in their daily ministry, either directly in the education or other forms of apostolate. The fact of having confreres with an advanced age is a real challenge for all to mutual support in gestures, and fraternal assistance. The lack of new vocations is certainly one of the biggest difficulties. I suggested that the Province adopt a program of permanent salesian formation for the Oblates. Daily cultivation of the gift, gratuitously received of our vocation, is one of our duties before God. It is good that the confreres in a Province or Region mutually help one another in caring for this gift.

On St. Francis de Sales feast day Fr. Michel Tournade assumed his third term as Provincial Superior. I wish to express to you, Fr. Tournade, that, in the land of our origins, the salesian spirit may always be the mark of your life and your acts in your ministring to our confreres of your Province. May God bless you, the members of the Provincial Council, and each confrere of your Province!

Community of the Oblates in Switzerland

Has some weeks ago I received notice that cheered my heart. Fr. Franz Aregger communicated that the confreres of the Oblate Community in Switzerland are in agreement to initiate a dialogue with Provincial and the Council of the Province of Austria/ South Germany, aiming at incorporating the community into this Province. It is clear that there is still a long way to go, but the attitude of openness to initiate a dialogue is highly praiseworthy. Therefore a dialogue has been initiated in the direction of clarifying the consequences for both parties in the eventuality of being approved such a incorporation. I express here my gratitude to our Swiss confreres. I invite all to pray, asking for divine guidance for this process that is being initiated.

I take advantage of this opportunity to remember that our house in Düdingen offers the unequaled possibility of studying in Friburgo, to few minutes away where there is a great university center. This makes possible studies in advanced degrees in up to three different languages: German, French and English. Therefore, to any Provinces/Regions that, in their planning, include the possibility of sending confreres for specialization in some field, either in service to the Congregation or the Church, I would like remember that we have this truly unique and special option at our disposal.

Saint Charles Parish - Monaco

As you know, our mission in the Saint Parish Charles in Monaco is the responsibility of the Generalate, but the presence of confreres depends upon the generosity of the Provinces and Regions. In recent years we had the dynamic presence of two very young confreres: Fr. Valdir Formentini and Fr. Charles Adams. The new government of the South American Province asked that the Fr. Valdir come back to the Province, and freed Fr. William M. van Rooden to serve in Monaco. Fr. William left his native land, Holland, more than forty years ago, serving in Brazil, both in formation and in parish ministry. Now he faces the challenge of serving in a new mission. With all my heart I am thankful for the generosity of the South American Province in continuing to minister to this Parish. May divine guidance and force never be lacking to the Fr. William in his mission in Monaco.

Our Mission in Asia

We all are conscientious of what our presence and mission in Asia means for the whole Congregation. Besides representing a great vocational hope for us today, it also gives evidence to our presence as Oblates in the evangelization of this continent. The fact of having ten Indian Oblates ordained ministers already is highly rewarding. This stimulates us to face with courage and firmness the challenges that are present, and to trust always anew in Him, source of all light and force.

A recent event was the diaconal ordinance of Chandra Sekhar Pinapati in Samarpanaram, on the 31st of March.

The General Council recently approved the request for the acquisition of a piece of land in Eluru/Andhra Pradesh, with the object of constructing a novitiate house. This acquisition was possible thanks to a generous aid of the Swiss confreres to whom we are immensely grateful. For the construction of the novitiate house we have approximately of two years, since the next group of novices is antecipated to start their novitiate in 2009. This is due to a change in the formation program. The localization of the novitiate will make the expansion of our presence into a new region of India possible. Next month, in May, I will visit our mission in the Phillipines and India. I will take this opportunity to preach a retreat for the confreres in the mission in Asia.


As I have already expressed this May I will be visiting our mission in Asia. I will begin visiting the Phillipines. Later I will go for India, to meet with the confreres and those in formation. In June, together with the Assistant General, Fr. Konrad Esser, I will participate of the Convocations of the Oblates in both of the Provinces in the United States, and will initiate the canonic visit in the Toledo-Detroit Province. Later, as has already been announced, we will have the Major Superiors’ Meeting and Conference, with the Formation personnel. Later, in October and November, we both will return to the United States in order to conclude the canonic visit to the Toledo-Detroit Province, and to make the canonic visit to the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province. I am thankful all for in remembering these visits in your much appreciated prayers.

Let us participate of the resurrection of Our Lord!

I am finishing writing this Letter at the beginning of the Holy Week, close to the days on which we celebrate the central events of our faith: the Institution of the Eucharist, the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and His triumphant victory over death and all the forces of evil.

In his Easter message to the Oblates, on the 26th of March 1890, Fr. Brisson asked that not only that they celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, but that each one “participate” in the Our Lord’s Resurrection. This means that, within us, the passage from death to life must happen. New life is the consequence of a fruitful participation in the celebration Easter. He added: “Let each one abandon the tomb, the material life, the brokenness”, and everything that “hinders us from directing ourselves freely to God”.

I wish that each one, called as we are to be the image of Savior walking on the face of the land, may during these days so special for us, renew the joy of our election as Oblates, and may we be strengthened in our living witnesses of the Risen One.

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all!

Fr. Aldino José Kiesel, osfs
Superior General