Anyone even remotely familiar with St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal , the Visitation Sisters or the Oblates of St Francis de Sales will grasp the joy that floods one’s heart in seeing or hearing the name of this picturesque French town of Annecy.

Annecy is the “Venice of the Alps” and the time honored place where St Francis de Sales served as Bishop and the location of the first community of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary.

If you are vacationing anywhere in France this summer, be sure to head southeast to this historic city near the border of Switzerland, and soak in the Salesian spirit of St Francis de Sales and the paths he walked.

A highlight of your visit will be the Basilica of the Visitation which stands sentinel over the entire spread of Annecy. Attend Mass there with the Visitation Sisters, where you will also be welcomed to morning prayer, in their choir! Reverence the tombs of the Founders, St Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, on either side of the main altar rail. Learn more about these saints in the display featured in the museum below the adjacent gift shop..

Walk down the long hill to the quaint town and head for the Lake of Annecy, a perennial place of beauty as well as boating, fishing and swimming, surrounded by the foothills of the Alps. Take a one or two hour boat ride around this lake’s expanse and view these the majestic mountains and key historic sites and castles.

If the castles intrigue you, head out for Thorens Castle, home to the DeSales family. It comes complete with a drawbridge and a dried up moat! If you are fortunate you might be met by a friendly bulldog. AS with all castles, there is dungeon you can enter, and in the well-kept rooms above, many artifacts and paintings of the family.

Here are some memories from a group of Visitation Sisters gathered in Annecy for a celebration, to stir up your interest in venturing forth and creating your own!

“we were given the opportunity to go up to the Monastery for a tour . Mother Superior led us through the bookbinding room with volumes of works in various stages of completion, to the infirmary, oratory and vestment room, finally stopping in the refectory for a snack, in complete silence. The silence in the refectory was profound- we were startled and had the deep sense of having entered a chapel rather than a refectory, the presence of God seemed so palpable.

We went back down the hill for a guided tour of Annecy. We explored the Church of St Francis de Sales, (an Italian church, we were told) which had also once housed a bakery and apartments as living quarters, as well as the relics of our Holy Founders for 150 years. Then we proceeded to the Church of St Maurice.We learned St Maurice was a martyr and a Roman soldier and that a Swiss abbey now stands on the site of his martyrdom not too far from Annecy. This church was the site of St. Francis de Sales’ first Holy Communion and Confirmation.

We meandered along canal-lined streets in this “Venice of the Alps” to St Pierre cathedral and back to Gallery House again for a more formal tour.

We walked to Notre Dame de Liesse where we prayed Vespers. We then returned to the church of St Francis de Sales for a profound evening of prayer, adoration with the faithful and touching rituals. “

May your journey to Annecy be rewarding in every way!

Sr. Susan Marie

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