Superior General’s Newsletter – 11 – December 2010


Our Spiritual Directory and DeSales’ Mission in the 21st Century:
Challenges and opportunities
First part

Dear confreres
            Recently I have been in Benin as part of the visitation to the French Province. I was asked to share there some reflections on the above theme. I divided it into two parts: the first part is a look on our origins, the foundation vision of our founder and the central importance of our Spiritual Directory; the second part is a sharing on some challenges and opportunities I see for us Oblates in the 21st Century.
I am presenting here some topics of the first part, and I intend to present the second part in the next Newsletter.

1 - A holistic view: to reprint the Gospel
Before focusing on our mission as Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in the 21st Century, it is certainly good and helpful first to have a look on our origin as Congregation. In order to discern our mission in our days it is needed to keep the intention of our venerable founder at the beginning of our congregation. Why have we been founded? What is expected of us to do in the Church? In difficult times it is good to go back to these points.
Our founder talked about our charism and our specific mission as DeSales Oblates to our confreres at the very beginning of our existence as Congregation. When he speaks about the reasons why do fund a new Congregation he recalls several Orders and Congregations who have had their origin during the history in order to respond to a need of the people of God: the Jesuits, the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, etc.
When he talks about our origin and our mission, he makes an important distinction. He says:
“If one considers what we do, one notices nothing new. Take education: a large number of religious Orders busy themselves with it. Foreign missions: there is a host of missionary Orders. Spiritual direction: this is the general ministry of the clergy. But, if there is nothing new in what we do, nothing out of the ordinary, why start something new? In order to answer this inevitable question, we must place ourselves in a domain which is not that of the appearances, the domain of things that can be seen and grasped by anyone. What is then the nature of this mystery?”
As we may notice, by sharing openly the questions that are in his heart and his mind, our founder is indicating already a direction. The reason of our foundation must be placed, he says, “in a domain which is not that of the appearances”. In other words, the reason of the existence of our Congregation doesn’t consist neither in education, nor in foreign missions and nor in spiritual direction, although these are means to practice our charism.
Father Brisson realizes something important: “Our society, I say, is no longer that of Saint Francis of Assisi, of Saint Ignatius… A Christian society no longer exists”. “Which kind of help does society need?... What are we to do?”
“A Christian society no longer exists”. As he does in other critical moments, in which he had to take decisions related to our Congregation, he refers to the Good Mother.  “We must do what the Good Mother has said. We must reprint the Gospel. Print a new gospel? No! It is always the same Gospel, There is only the one, but it must be presented in a new way to the multitude of souls. We must bring Our Savior Himself so that He may preside over this enterprise…”

We could say that both our venerable founders have had a wise insight here. In our days we would certainly call it a holistic view, from which follows a holistic mission. What the society needs is not fragments of the Gospel, but the Gospel itself. People need to know and to be instructed on the fundamental points of Christian life. It is the time not to focus on specific parts of the Gospel, but to focus on the central point, on the core of Christian life, which means, to go back to the Gospel.

As we know, Saint Jane de Chantal witnessed that Saint Francis de Sales was the Savior walking again on the earth. He lived the teachings of the Gospel in a holistic way. Our charism as Oblates follows from that: it is the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales; and also our mission, which is to live and to spread out this Salesian spirit (C 14).

It seems to me that a main consequence of that holistic view and holistic mission is that, rather then focusing on projects, we should focus on our charism and on our mission as Oblates. Our mission as Oblates goes beyond the goal of any historical given project. Each project is a historical way to serve and to minister to the people, but concentrating all our energies in a given project could be just a way to our own frustration. Projects have its beginnings and its ends; our mission has a characteristic that gives a long-standing and permanent orientation to our lives.

2 - The Spiritual Directory and interior life
How to prepare and to enable ourselves in order to be able to “reprint the Gospel”? How can we reach such an interior identification with Jesus Christ? Our founder is direct and clear: through the practice of our Spiritual Directory: “The Directory is nothing else than the Gospel in action”. He continues: “May all your undertakings and all your actions be materially and spiritually penetrated with the Directory. May the works of your hands, the works of your intelligence — everything — be done from this point of view”.
3 - “Outside of this true spirit of St. Francis de Sales, we are nothing”
Saint Francis de Sales was like the Savior walking on the earth. He reached such holiness of life by living the Spiritual Directory. While composing the Directory he was also guiding his life by it.
Talking about other religious congregations “who have taken the name of St. Francis de Sales” our founder points out the question: “What advantage have we over them?” And withouth doubting, he answers clearly: “They do not have the Directory”. And what are the consequences of that? Again he goes directly to the answer: “They do not have the intimacy of the thought, life and spirit of the saintly Doctor. We, on the contrary, force ourselves to convey and realize in ourselves the life of the Saint, his thought, his intentions, his conduct and manner of acting, his soul in its totality. That is our task, our ministry”. And definitively this ministry puts us as Oblates “in a domain which is not that of the appearances”. To follow Jesus Christ, in the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales, formed by the spiritual Directory: this leads us to an interior identity, to the domain of things that can not “be seen and grasped by anyone”.
Our venerable founder became so convinced of that to the point that he made a strong statement: “Outside of this true spirit of St. Francis de Sales, we are nothing, and we can do nothing by ourselves. It is very important, however, that we be somebody, and that we accomplish something. The whole secret is there, my friends”.

An Update on the Case of our Venerable Founder

After the Decree recognizing our Founder as Venerable, the next step now is to have a recognized miracle that has happened through his intercession. There is a documentary case about the quickly healing of an eight years old boy, who has had one of his feet being seriously wounded. It happenned in 1953 in Alausi, Ecuador. In October 2010 the Postulator of the Case of Beatification of our Founder, Sister Madeleine-Thérèse Dechambre, O.S.F.S., was informed that the two physicians nominated by the Congregation have given a positive report. They have done just a first study of the miracle. It means that now the next step is to have the meeting of the medical team (five physicians), who will be asked to give their report and position. This is the medical-legal phase. The question is to know whether the healing can be held to not be explainable naturally. We do not know when that meeting will take place. In case this phase finishes positively, then the next step would be the meeting of the theologians. Meanwhile let us continue to pray for his beatification.

Works of Father Brisson on the website

Father Hebert Winklehner, as member of the International Commission for Salesian Studies (ICSS), is working hard on the website . He says: “One project is the digitization of the works of Fr. Brisson and making it available on this website. The French version of the whole work is already online because of Fr. Roger Balducelli’s Millennium edition”. Also the German version of the retreats and sermons of our founder are already on the website. I would like to express the recognition and the gratitude, on behalf of our Congregation, to Father Winklehner, as well as to all the members of the ICSS, for the wonderful service for the Congregation and for the entire Salesian family.

French Province: time of transition

Just some weeks ago I came back from the canonical visitation to the French Province. Father Sebastian Leitner accompanied me for translation purposes. I would like to share with all of you some information and reflections.
We started the visitation in Benin, where we spent five days. There are three communities in Benin: the “mother house” community, the community of the formation house (there are at this moment four novices), and the community of Saint Francis de Sales parish.
It is really good to see the ministries in those our confreres are involved there. Besides the efforts regarding to the initial formation of Oblates in Benin, I witnessed the growing influence of our confreres in the local church. We are ministering in a very promising parish, at the coordination of the diocesan Charitas, at the chaplaincy in the University, and in other pastoral initiatives, like the annual Salesian Marathon.
Two main projects that are foreseen are the future formation house for scholastics in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), and a hostel to welcome students of the university. Of course, a main challenge is to fund these projects. By now, there are six scholastics from Benin doing their studies in Lyon, while living in Craponne. But the idea is that in the future the scholasticate will be in Adidjan.
After visiting Benin, we went to France: Troyes, Craponne, Mercury and Annecy. Saint Bernard school in Troyes is a challenge for our confreres in the province. The number of confreres able to do ministry are less and less. To take care of the elder confreres requires initiatives and dedication. The question of joining with confreres of other provinces (with Italian province, or directing to a European province) came up again and again. The idea of having in France an international community of Oblates came back again and again. Looking to the future, the question of our presence in the country where we have been founded is really a point to be considered by the entire Congregation.
After finishing the visitation, and with the consent of the members of the General Council, I appointed Father Bruno Lecoin as the next Provincial Superior. Let us pray that God guide him in this ministry. Father Lecoin will take over on the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, next January 24, 2011, with the new members of the Provincial Council that will be elected by the Provincial Chapter between Christmas and New Year, and have to be ratified by the General Council.
I would like to express my wholeheartedly gratitude to Father Michel Tournade, who is finishing his twelve years term as Provincial Superior. Thank you!

South American Province

In January 2011 the Provincial Chapter will take place, in which the new leadership of the province will be chosen.
In Haiti at these days a piece of land will be purchased. The purpose is to have our formation facilities in the future there. At this moment we have several postulants in Haiti, and the scholastics and novices (starting novitiate in the beginning of 2011) from Haiti are now in Brazil.

Indian Mission: five perpetual professions

It doesn’t sounds so common in our days to hear that five scholastics are doing the final profession together. At the beginning of January 2011 in Bangalore we will have this very special ceremony. Father Konrad Esser will be there on behalf of the general administration.
This event represents by sure an important step in our Indian Mission. Certainly soon we will have more confreres serving in pastoral ministries to the church in India. Let us keep these five scholastics in our prayers, as well as the whole mission in India.
Our confreres in India are very much motivated with the school project, which has been approved by the General Council. This project is a dream that was nourished during several years. Now the time has come, and a lot of work is required until this project will become a reality. It is good to see a lot of good energy among our Indian confreres, which is required to assume such an undertaking.

2011: Preparatory Commission

            The year of 2011 will be focused on the preparation of the 2012 General Chapter. Father Markus Kraxberger (e-mail address:, with the assistance of Dominik Nguyen (e-mail address: will preside the preparatory commission. All the provinces/region are expected to choose the members of the preparatory commission not later than January 2011, and to send that information to Father Kraxberger. He will then send the outline of the steps leading up to the 19th General Chapter.
We are aware of the importance of a General Chapter for our Congregation. As we are going through a critical time for religious life, such a meeting with confreres from all over the world is a special opportunity for us to look on our situation and to take decisions regarding to our future. This is why I would like to renew the invitation to all of you, my dear confreres, to get involved in the preparation of the General Chapter.
The meeting of the general council with the preparatory commission is scheduled for August 2011, and will take place in Annecy, in the brand new building constructed attach to the community house.

E-mail address of the Generalate community

If you would like to contact our Generalate community in Rome for purposes like visiting, requesting some information, etc, please use the following e-mail address: .


I am finishing this letter just before leaving for Brazil. On December 13 I will celebrate with the Visitation Sisters in São Paulo the end of the jubilee year. After that I will be visiting the South American Province, and to attend the provincial chapter in January 2011.
During the first week of February the General Council will meet in Haus Overbach, Germany.
Later on, during the first semester 2011, together will Father Konrad Esser, I will do the canonical visitation to the Toledo/Detroit Province, which will be also in process of discerning for the next provincial administration.
At the beginning of August the meeting of the General Council and the Preparatory Commission will take place in Annecy. At the end, the members of the General Council will stay for three additional days of meeting.
I am grateful to all of you for your precious prayers for me and the members of the General Council.

I wish to each of you a blessed Advent season, and a Happy Christmas!

In our Salesian saints and our venerable Founders,


Pe. Aldino Jose Kiesel, OSFS
Superior General