On the Feast of St. Francis de Sales this year, 36 men and women from Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia, became the inaugural group to be consecrated to the Fransalian Associates, a third-order group of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales.
And four of those associates are parishioners of St. Joseph Church in Madison: Jennifer Rodgers, Roger Shaw and Kate and Mike Pentecost.
The special occasion included a three-day retreat Jan. 21-23, which culminated in a Mass presided over by Bishop Joel M. Konzen, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as well as several priests and deacons of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. It came after nearly two years of learning and study about St. Francis de Sales and his spiritual teachings. The special weekend was held at St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
The consecration included the making of promises, and the receiving of a lapel pin and a small wooden cross that is embellished with the Holy Spirit as a dove resting on the heart of Jesus.
“The consecration retreat and Mass was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. There were many priests at the retreat that gave very wonderful talks about St. Francis de Sales and how we are all called to live a holy life in the Church and in our personal lives,” said Rodgers, who serves as regional secretary for the U.S. Fransalian Associates. “We were able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and were nourished daily with the Eucharist at Mass.
“This completion brought great joy to my heart; however, this was not an end to my journey but a new beginning. I know my journey truly began at Baptism,” she continued. “I feel this consecration is the continuation of what God began when I entered the Church as an infant. I’m trying to live out my vocational call the best I can each day doing God’s will.”
“Words cannot describe my excitement and joy” at being consecrated, added Shaw, who serves as treasurer for the Tennessee associates. “That was a very special moment for me and my family that traveled with me to Atlanta. The spiritual retreat leading up to the Holy Mass and consecration ceremony was phenomenal.”
A five-year journey
Although, the formal part of the program leading up to the consecration included 17-modules held via Zoom because of its start coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the discernment process for the Tennessee Chapter began years earlier, according to Rodgers, thanks to Father Tomy J. Puliyan, MSFS, former pastor of St. Joseph Church and provincial superior of the Fransalians’ United States province, for whom she began working as administrative assistant in 2016.
“I was intrigued by the life and teachings of St. Francis de Sales by the way Father Tomy lived out his vocation through the inspiration of this gentleman’s saint. Father Tomy approached me to help him form a Fransalian Associates group at St. Joseph to study ‘Introduction to Devout Life,’” a book written by St. Francis de Sales, Rodgers said. “I have always been interested in being part of a religious community since I was a child studying and learning from the St. Cecilia Dominican Order at St. Joseph.
“I have always contemplated religious life; however, my spiritual journey took me down the vocation of wife and mother instead,” she continued. “St. Francis de Sales teaches we are all called to be holy in our own life’s vocation. ‘Be who you are and be that well.’ I felt prompted by God to learn more about this newly formed Fransalian Associates Third Order, so my five-year journey to discernment began.”
And the Fransalian Associates of Tennessee officially began on May 24, 2017.
“We immersed ourselves into studying literature about St. Francis de Sales as well as studying his own personal writing and reflections; frequenting Mass, the Sacraments and Adoration; praying and reflecting on Scripture daily, because it’s all about our personal journey to holiness and perfection,” Shaw said. “Fransalian Associates are ‘founded on Christ.’ All are called to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Spurred by the love of God, the Fransalian Associates desire to come into the fullness of life through a personal and ongoing encounter with Jesus Christ,” he said. “Fransalian Associates strive to live this fullness of life in Christ, walking constantly in the fundamentals and foundations called to holiness.
“Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the classes,” he continued. “They were very informative, inspiring, and we enjoyed active participation with all.”
Growing in holiness
Through it all, the Fransalian Associates are learning how to grow in holiness, which is what the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales are all about.
“I feel after the studies and discernment period, I have a better understanding of the power and value of being still and beginning prayer quietly in the presence of God,” Rodgers said. “I have learned to contemplate obstacles in my life through prayer before reacting and by reaching out to my community for prayer support.
“I’ve been living the values I’ve learned daily with the grace that God gives me and by doing my work whether big task or small to the best of my ability with joy,” she added. “All for the glory of God.”
And Shaw says anyone can learn it, too.
“In response to the universal call to holiness, Salesian spirituality is so clear and simply laid out in a way that anyone, no matter his or her vocation can apply it in daily life,” Shaw said. “In the words of St. Francis de Sales to ‘bloom where you are planted.’ It’s a ‘spirituality of the heart,’ as relevant today as in the time of St. Francis de Sales himself, which is why I was drawn to it.
“Its ideals and lessons are easy for me to understand and apply,” he said. “My desire is to share the love of Christ and strive to be a model of Salesian spirituality taught by St. Francis de Sales to everyone I have the privilege to encounter.”
Inviting others to holiness
The Fransalian Associates of Tennessee meet 3-5 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month at St. Joseph Church to study books about St. Francis de Sales. Each meeting begins with The Liturgy of the Hours and ends with Mass at 5:30 p.m.
And they are guided by Father Davis Chackaleckel, MSFS, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Community in Old Hickory, who serves as the local animator.
“I will be a resource person regarding Salesian Spirituality and will also be a spiritual director of the Tennessee Fransalian Associates. It will be my responsibility to tell the aspirants who can be a Fransalian Associate and speak about the spiritual benefits of being an associate,” Father Chackaleckel said. “My advice (to anyone interested) will be to become a Fransalian Associate, radiating Salesian optimism and joyful spirituality. Every Fransalian Associate is called to be serving the Lord in their particular state of life, joyfully. God has testified that we all are good, worthy of divine love and mercy.
“Every moment we live comes from the hand of our loving God and is graced for our salvation. Live every moment to the fullest, without dwelling on the past or future. Spirituality is frivolous if not translated and lived into daily life,” he continued. “They will be growing in personal holiness, improved prayer life and intentional, contagious Catholic Christianity. One of the famous sayings of St. Francis de Sales is to ‘bloom where you are planted,’ and again, ‘be what you are created to be and intended to be and be at its best.’”
Along with the monthly meetings, “we are called to actively participate and support the following: parish mission for the renewal of Christian life, foreign mission, education of the young, evangelization and innovative ministries,” Shaw added. “As a Fransalian Associate, we are called to partner with the Fransalian priests to carry out this apostolate to create a Christ centered world and promote Christ culture in today’s society.”
For more information about the Fransalian Associates of Tennessee, e-mail Pentecost, local coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next program, which will include a 24-module two-year formation period for the Fransalian Associates, will begin in the fall.