The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales in England

St. Francis de Sales Address: Provincial House, 27 Queensberry Road, Kettering, Northants NN15 7HL.

Priest in residence: Fr Terry McGrath.


St. Francis de Sales

Fr. Larive was the first Missionary of St. Francis de Sales to come and work in England. In a sense he is our patron and forerunner. He was born on 19th August 1819 in the village of Hermillon, a remote place in the mountains not far from St. Jean de Maurienne. He was ordained a priest of the diocese on 1st June 1844. After serving as curate in a couple of parishes, he asked to join the newly formed group of Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales in Annecy. They had been working locally for about 20 years, preaching, giving spiritual guidance, calling people to a holy life. But in 1842 they were asked by the Holy See to work in India. Francis Larive was keen to join them and go to India. The Founder of the Missionaries, Fr. Peter Mermier, helped him to discern his missionary calling. He encouraged him to want to be more like Jesus – even to the point of accepting poverty, insults and humiliations for the love of God. After a novitiate of only a few months, he was professed as a Missionary on 6th June 1848.

In November 1848 Francis Larive arrived at Kamptee in India. He spent 11 years there working in the parish and as chaplain to the garrison of the British Army. It was from Kamptee that Fr. Larive travelled to England in the company of Captain Dewell, an Army officer he had received into the Catholic Church, who was from Malmesbury in Wiltshire. They arrived in England on 24th May 1861. After a brief meeting in Bristol with Bishop Clifford, Fr. Larive was sent to be the first resident priest in Chippenham. During his five years there he worked to set up the parish in Devizes, where he blessed the foundation stone of the church on 11th July, 1864. He was well supported in this work by other Missionaries, both Priests and Brothers, who had joined him from Annecy.

By 1866 he was free to start a new church and community in Malmesbury. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy, who had known him in Kamptee, also came to Malmesbury and set up a school. Francis Larive gave of himself fully to the spread of the Faith both in India and in England. At the heart of all his qualities there was a deep interior life of prayer and a desire to imitate Christ.

Every year he went on Retreat to the Jesuits in London. In September 1872, after a Retreat in Annecy, he went on pilgrimage to Rome and was presented to Pope Pius IX – ‘Pio Nono’ – he also went to celebrate Mass at the Little House of Loreto on the of 8th September 1872. Perhaps at Loreto he renewed the promise he had made years before at Our Lady’s Shrine of La Sallette, to offer up his health, reputation and all spiritual comfort – for the sake of the Mission.
By 1885 Francis Larive was ill. He had a year to rest in Devizes. Then he returned to the house of the Missionaries in Annecy. In 1890 the Superior General of the Missionaries agreed to give a priest to the Catholic community in Petersfield. Fr. Larive was asked to start the parish there. He was then 71 years of age. The three years he spent in Petersfield were fraught with accusations, allegations and misunderstandings. He felt that his earlier promise to Our Lady was being kept – he gave up his reputation! He died in Petersfield one Sunday morning on 28th May, 1893. He had served as a Missionary in England for over 30 years – a man with a generous heart who had great faith and courage in his service of Christ and the Church.

We, his fellow Missionaries, ask his prayers on our apostolate here in the U.K. As a Fransalian family we are gathered by God, from diverse languages, cultures and nations to live as brothers united in heart and mind, so as to “LIVE JESUS” according to the Spirit and Spirituality of St Francis de Sales, our Patron and in the footsteps of our Founder Fr Peter Mary Mermier.

As a Religious family, we radiate Salesian dimensions of life in service, be it in parishes, in education and on missions. As a Fransalian family we live the clarion call of our founder: “I WANT MISSIONS” in our Being and Doing, so as to be Mystics of God’s Love for Prophetic Ministries today.

We have just set up our Provincial House in the Northampton Diocese, at 27, Queensberry road, Kettering. The Priest in Residence is Fr Terry McGrath, the Provincial.

September 2013