The St. Francis de Sales Association is the lay branch of the Society of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales. The Society was founded by Fr. Henri Chaumont (1838-1896) and Mme (now Venerable) Caroline Carré de Malberg (1829-1891) in Paris on October 15, 1872. Its Constitutions were approved by the Church in 1911 and its revised Statutes in 2009.
In a rather unusual turn of events, the religious branch, now known as the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, began to develop from the lay branch when four Daughters set out as catechist missionaries to India in 1889. As of 2022, there are nearly 2,300 lay Associates (Daughters) and almost 1,400 SMMI in 22 countries on five continents. As the Society’s Statutes explain, “Members of both branches make the same ‘Salesian Consecration’ which unites them by means of a common spirituality and in two different states of life.”
Membership in the Association is open to Catholic women who wish to respond to the universal call to holiness by fulfilling the duties of their state in life in the context of Salesian spirituality. Prospective members begin with a three-month period during which they learn about the history and traditions of the Association and prayerfully discern if God may be calling them to this way of life. If so, they begin a two-year program of formation with the help of a Companion, a member of the Association who has been specially trained to help them discover the riches of Salesian spirituality, as taught by St. Francis de Sales in the Introduction to the Devout Life, and as practiced according to the Association’s Rule of Life. During their formation, prospective members are encouraged to participate in local group meetings, days of recollection and annual retreats. Then, if they wish to do so, candidates make their Act of Consecration, committing themselves to wholeheartedly “strive for holiness as it is found in the Gospels, in the spirit of St. Francis de Sales, and to serve the Church by the witness of [their] whole life and by [their] participation in its apostolate.” Under the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit, the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the support that comes from spiritual friendships within the Association, Daughters of St. Francis de Sales strive to “Live Jesus” in a spirit of humility, gentleness, simplicity, and love, wherever God has placed them.