The Congregation of Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales was founded in Annecy, France in 1838.The political disturbances in the country, especially the French Revolution had its impact in the spiritual realm too, as it left the people in a deep spiritual crisis and indifference towards their religious duties. Sensing the signs of the time Fr. Mermier took upon himself the task of a spiritual renewal of his people by preaching parish missions. This special apostolate in turn gave rise to a community of preachers who gathered around Fr. Mermier. His firm missionary zeal was amply clear from his slogan: “I want missions.”
The newly formed community of missionaries, consisting of six members, began to live together at La Roche–Sur-Foron in 1834. Realizing the need to give a formal shape to the team Fr. Mermier went ahead with the plan of forming it into a religious society. A rule of life was drawn up by him in 1836 and the community moved into a new house, La Feuilette at Annecy. Msgr. Pierre Joseph Rey, Bishop of Annecy who was a source of constant support and inspiration to the missioners conferred, the canonical approval on the young Congregation on 24th October, 1838 and entrusted it to the care and patronage of St. Francis de Sales.
The mission plan of Fr. Mermier included foreign missions too and he expected Rome to entrust his little Congregation with a mission in Africa. But contrary to the expectation, the vast mission territory of Visakhapatnam, in India was entrusted to the MSFS in 1845.
Accepting the challenge, Fr. Mermier prepared his best six men to be sent out for the new mission. The pioneering team consisting of Fr. Jacques Martin, Fr. Joseph Lavorel, Fr. Jean Marie Tissot, Fr. Jean Thevenet, Bro. Pierre Carton and Bro. Sulpice Fontanel bid farewell to their confreres and homeland and boarded the ship on 8th June 1845 and arrived at Pondicherry after three months, on 8th September. The mission entrusted to the MSFS was a large territory including parts of the present day states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Maharastra. The missionaries rendered their services from the four mission centers of Visakhapatnam, Yanam, Kamptee and Aurangabad.
Fr. Mermier, realizing the urgent needs of the Visakhapatnam Mission left no stone unturned in finding finance and personnel for the same. Gradually the Congregation began to extent its missionary work to other countries as well. The MSFS mission in England began in 1861. Thanks to the generosity of Captain Charles Dewel who was in the military unit at Kamptee in India. He offered his house and property at Malmesbury back in his home country England to the MSFS, and Fr. Francis Larive who was instrumental in initiating the process was sent from Kamptee to England in 1861 to open the new Mission. The work of the pioneering missionaries bore rich fruit and the English mission, in the course of time, developed into a full- fledged province.
In 1862, Fr. Mermier, the holy founder, left for his eternal reward, leaving all his confreres grief-stricken. Many of the missionaries who came to India learned many Indian languages and some of them were so proficient that they wrote many books in many of these languages. They worked hard, facing all the difficulties. Sicknesses, inclement whether and hard work took away the lives of many young, zealous missionaries. The vast territory of Visakhapatanam was divided into two in 1887, forming the new diocese of Nagpur, with Alexis Riccaz msfs as its first bishop. However the vastness of the territory and the increase in the need for more personnel and resources led to the division of the original Visakhapatnam mission into many dioceses, and were handed over to other religious congregations in the course of time. The Fransalians too in turn grew large and began to spread to the other parts of India.Today it has six provinces in India, viz., Visakhapatanam, South–West, North–East, South East, Nagpur and Pune.