| By Sue Parker

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

1572-1641  |  Feast – Aug. 12

Heartbroken after the death of her husband, St. Jane Frances de Chantal attended a Lenten program in 1604 presented by St. Francis de Sales. He became her spiritual director, and her life would never be the same. Six years later, Jane established a religious order envisioned by Francis, the Sisters of the Visitation of Mary. By the time of Francis de Sales death in 1622, the two had opened 13 convents. Upon Jane’s death 19 years later, 85 houses existed. Today, approximately 150 monasteries remain active throughout the world.

Jane was born in Dijon, France in 1572 and married at the age of 21. Jane embraced her vocation to married life; a witness at her canonization described their marriage as “a model of a genuinely holy marriage. They had between them one heart and one soul.” But just nine years after their marriage, her husband was killed in a hunting accident leaving Jane to raise four children alone.

Jane’s encounter with Francis de Sales bridged the path between her first and second vocations.

Francis encouraged Jane to seek holiness in caring for herself, her family and her community. Jane responded by providing the best care and education for her children, caring for the sick and poor in her neighborhood, and increasing her time in prayer.

When her children were old enough, Jane embraced her second vocation. With Francis’ support, she established the Sisters of the Visitation of Mary for women whose age or poor health prevented them from joining other orders. Committed to the humility and gentleness modeled by Mary at the Visitation, the Visitandines devoted themselves to prayer and to “Live Jesus” serving the poor and sick outside the convent, which was a controversial role for sisters at that time. During the plague of 1628, Jane turned the convent at Annecy into a hospital. Jane died in 1641, and was buried next to St. Francis de Sales at the first convent they established at Annecy. She was canonized in 1767.