The Congregation of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales was founded to spread the spirit and teaching of its patron saint, one of the foremost Christian humanists of his day.
St. Francis de Sales' fascinating and engaging view of man lies at the basis of his teaching and spirit. "Man" he stated, "is the perfection of the universe, the mind is the perfection of man, love is the perfection of the mind, and charity is the perfection of love."
This unique conjunction, interpenetration and interaction of intellectual and affective elements sees man in his totality. In the Salesian conception of man, with its attempt to harmonize and integrate the divine and human aspects, anthropology becomes inseparable from theology. Everything truly human comes under the study, care, and concern of man. That is why Christian humanism engenders a universal openness and awareness.
A nun from the Order of the Visitation, which was founded by St. Francis de Sales, prevailed upon Father Louis Brisson to form a congregation of men committed to living and transmitting this ideal of Salesian humanism.
In 1876, a small band of six men, headed by Father Brisson, pronounced their first vows as Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, and began to live the religious life in Troyes, France.
Despite humble beginnings, the order experienced a rapid growth. Oblate communities now exist in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, South America, South Africa, Namibia, Switzerland, and the United States.
The first foundation in the United States was a high school for boys in Wilmington, Delaware, founded in 1903. Although the principal undertaking of the Oblates in the United States is the Christian education of youth, members devote themselves to many other varied apostolates to serve human needs.