Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does one join the association?

    our-medalTraditionally, you may be invited by an existing member, or "associate", who recognizes in you qualities or unmet spiritual needs and desires to share the possibilities of the association with you. Indications that this is right for you are: the desire to read the Scriptures and pray more, frequent attendance at Mass and a love of learning more about the Roman Catholic faith, its teachings and history. If you don't know someone who is already an associate, you can be put in contact with one, who will get to know you, or you may get to know your pastor and ask him to propose you. There is a written application that is usually submitted on your behalf by an associate or a priest.

    The Next Step

    Prospective members of the association begin with a three-month period of prayerful meditation called the aspirantship. As an "aspirant," you will be assigned a companion, a spiritual friend to accompany you on your journey and to help you understand the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales and our association. During this time, it is important to make a prayerful decision about whether God is calling you to Salesian spirituality. If you decide to continue, the next step is the process of formation.

    The Time of Formation

    St. Francis de Sales recognized how easily we can be overwhelmed by our need to grow in many directions at one time. This is especially true today! Therefore, the association offers a two-year program of formation that focuses on our unique series of written booklets known as "probations," supplemented by the Catholic Church's Vatican Council II teachings, writings of St. Francis de Sales and association history. Probations are more than readings: they require reflection, prayer and meditation on aspects of the love of God, virtues and the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. Monthly contacts with your companion help you to understand and assimilate what you are learning into your everyday life.

    The Commitment

    Upon completion of your time of formation, you decide if you want to commit, through a Salesian consecration, to living the family spirit of the association. If you choose to do so, you then become a member of the St. Francis de Sales Association. As Salesians, we freely give and consecrate our lives to God.

    Living as a Spiritual Family

    St. Francis de Sales reminds us that we are called to holiness in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. The association provides a practical means of living a life devoted to God with a family of spiritual friends, united by the bond of love, to support us along the way. Our family spirit is nourished by monthly gatherings, contact with our companions, days of recollection, and annual retreats.

  • What are the requirements for applicants?

    Simply to be a practicing Catholic woman: single, married, widowed, separated or divorced.
  • Do you have to be Catholic to become an associate?

    Yes, we are a lay Catholic association. Some regions have informal groups of "Friends" who meet to share Salesian spirituality and friendship. All are welcome at these "Friends" gatherings, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Interested? Read more about the Friends of St. Francis de Sales.
  • Is the St. Francis de Sales Association only for women?

    Yes, but we are affiliated with the Sons of St Francis de Sales for men. Please contact a Son of St. Francis de Sales for more information. The Sons follow the same formation program as the women's association.
  • How long does it take to become an associate (member)?

    Two years and three months, sometimes longer but never less. However, there is flexibility built in, to allow each person to complete formation at their own pace.
  • What is "formation"?

    Formation is the process one goes through to become a "consecrated" associate, one who commits to live according to the "probations" or teachings of the association and our Rule of Life. It is a two-year program of "probations" that your companion guides you through. All associates experience the same program, which "forms" us, providing a foundation of the teachings and beliefs of St. Francis de Sales to which all of our associates aspire. These same concepts included in formation will be drawn upon and referred to continuously as you continue to grow in love as a disciple of St. Francis de Sales as an associate.
  • What is a "probation"?

    The word "probation" comes from the Latin "probare" meaning "to try" and refers to the systematic method used in the unique formation program of the St. Francis de Sales Association. A probation consists of a month-long focus on a particular virtue or aspect of the Christian life. It is not "study," but a three-pronged concentration: first we learn by reading, then we pray or meditate to make it our own and ultimately try to put it into practice in our lives.
  • What is an "aspirant"?

    An "aspirant" is one who is exploring the possibility of becoming involved in the association. This is a three-month time period with assigned study materials and a few companion meetings. It allows one a brief introduction to the association, prior to committing to the longer two-year formation. It is required, even for those who feel certain they are ready to start. There is no obligation to proceed to the two-year formation stage. You can decide at any point during the aspirantship or during the two-year formation not to continue.
  • What is a "companion"?

    A companion is a spiritual friend who guides you through the two-year formation, helping you follow the program and learn how to apply the spirituality to your particular life situation. A companion typically remains a friend ever after. She is not a spiritual director and is cautioned never to intrude into areas of her charges' lives that are personal or a matter for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. She serves to facilitate your formation, helping you stay on schedule with the probations through completion, and to recommend you for consecration once you are ready. Usually your assignment continues beyond the consecration, as all associates are required to have a companion.
  • How is the companion assignment made?

    The group directress assigns the companion, with input from our associates who know both the candidate and available companions. Sometimes the candidate can request a companion known to them. It is a flexible process. If the "fit" is not good, the candidate is free to ask the group directress for a change, as the relationship needs to work well for both parties.
  • What is an "associate," a "probanist" and a "daughter"?

    An associate is one who has completed formation and is a full member. Our founder preferred the term associate because we are closely associated, united to each other in a community.

    A probanist is one in the midst of formation, not yet a full member or associate.

    The term daughter is both the traditional way of referring to our associates and an endearing term used to describe female disciples of St. Francis de Sales. Longstanding associates tend to use the term daughter frequently, while those newer to the association may use daughter and associate interchangeably. Originally, the relationship between companions was described as the more senior associate acting as mother to her daughter. Technically, each associate is considered to be a daughter. Sometimes the plural term "Daughters" is used to describe the association as a whole.
  • What does it mean to be "consecrated"?

    The consecration is a renewal of our baptismal promises - to live them more fully and in an adult manner. It is made after the two years of formation and is a free choice. It is not a vow like those entering religious life make, but a promise made freely and out of love. A vow binds one under pain of sin and is not part of our spirituality. Essentially, it is one's commitment to live life according to the association's probations and our "Rule of Life."
  • I'm familiar with Bible study groups. Is your association like one?

    No, we are not a bible study. Reading the Bible and discussing it is certainly a worthwhile activity many of us practice, but the association offers much more. The association provides a practical means of living a life devoted to God with a family of spiritual friends, united by the bond of love, to support us along the way.
  • How does your group compare to other Catholic, lay spiritual societies?

    We are not a secular institute as is Opus Dei, or a third order as are the lay groups that are affiliated with the Franciscans, Benedictine, Carmelites and others. We are unique in having been started as a lay organization in the 1800s for the purpose of being a help to priests bring souls to the Lord, and in the fact that a religious order and missionaries grew out of our lay organization. However, a separate Secular Institute of St. Francis de Sales does exist and may be contacted directly.
  • If I start formation but then experience a life change, am I able to delay?

    One of the principal aspects of the vocation to the St. Francis de Sales Association is to find salvation in the duties associated with our "state in life." Of course, major, life-changing experiences are taken into consideration. Your companion can help you discern whether it would be better to discontinue or suspend your formation. If the interruption lasts more than a few months, you may be asked to begin again.
  • How will my membership affect my involvement in my parish?

    It should help you to see the value of your parish activities, which you are encouraged to continue, remaining an active parishioner. If in time you become more involved in the association, it will be a way to serve the Church in another capacity. You are not expected to choose between the two but be active in both your parish and the association.
  • My husband fears my joining will negatively affect our marriage. Can you help answer his concerns?

    Some 30 or 40 years ago, we had to have our husband's permission to begin formation; that no longer is the case. It might help if he could speak with most other husbands who say it is the best thing that has happened for their wives, children and them. It makes one a better Christian and a better person. Some husbands, seeing the good results, have chosen to accompany their wives by beginning the same formation in the Sons of St. Francis de Sales.
  • Is this association sanctioned by the Church?

    Yes. The Society of the Daughters of St. Francis de Sales, as we were called earlier, was first approved by Pius X, in 1911. Since that time our statutes have been approved by the Vatican each time they have been amended, most recently in April of 2007. Under Canon Law, we are termed a private, international association of the faithful. At the end of our statutes there are letters (1994 and 2007) from the Pontifical Council for the Laity, under whose jurisdiction we have been since Vatican Council II. We have only been active in the U.S. since the 1950s, when the association was introduced here by Delphine Madill, of St. Louis, Mo., who lived in France briefly.
  • How can I find a meeting to attend?

    To find the group closest to you, please contact the association. Currently, we have groups in the following states: Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas (Eastern), Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, DC, and Washington State (Seattle area). Also, see our map of where groups are located.
  • I don't live near any of the existing groups. Can I still become an associate?

    Absolutely! As long as you are willing to correspond with a spiritual friend for the two-year formation. Many associates have done all their formation by correspondence. In fact, originally most companions kept in touch through letters. An affiliation with a group is recommended, however. It should be one where you can most easily travel to for special events like retreats or conferences, at least once a year. Members are always welcome to attend a group meeting in any city you might be visiting. We also have a group of associates who don't live anywhere near a group, and they meet via conference/video call. To find a group, contact the association.
  • Are there any membership fees?

    At the beginning of the second year of formation we are asked to make a donation in proportion to our means for the support of the organization. There is also a modest annual subscription fee for "The Salesian Bond," our bi- monthly publication, which is available in both print and digital form. The costs are truly minimal in keeping with the non-profit nature of a religious organization.