The Missionaries of France were founded in Lyon in 1808 under the auspices of Cardinal Fesch with a view to preaching parish missions. Disbanded in 1809 by order of Napoleon, a few missionaries got together in Paris in 1814 under the direction of Jean-Baptiste de Rauzan (1757-1847) and of Charles de Forbin-Janson (1785-1844). In 1818, the society was recognized by royal edict. The July Revolution 1830 once again dispersed the members of the society. In 1833, Mr. de Rauzan reestablished the society with constitutions approved by Gregory XVI in 1834. It was at that point that the name of the society was changed to the Priests of Mercy. From 1839 on, they opened up a few houses in the United States. This society did not see a great deal of growth. In 2004, it had four houses and numbered twenty-seven priests.

In the autumn of 1814, in his letters to Forbin-Janson, Abbé de Mazenod began to mention the Missionaries of France. On September 12, he told him that he was sending him two priests, but that he could not join them because of his ministry at Aix and of the imminent return of his relatives. On October 28, he rejoiced at the founding of the Missionaries of France and asked to have a copy of their constitutions. He himself was thinking of preaching missions in Provence with a few priests. In an August 1816 letter, we learn that Forbin-Janson had asked Abbé de Mazenod and his few co-workers to join the Missionaries of France. Abbé de Mazenod answered that the vicars general of Aix and the missionaries were opposed to such a union.

In November-December of 1817, Abbés Deblieu and Mie collaborated with the Missionaries of France in the mission of Arles. In 1820, all the Missionaries of Provence and the Missionaries of France preached together the mission of Marseilles from January 2 to February 27 and that of Aix from March 12 to April 24. They worked together passably well. After the mission of Marseilles, some of the faithful asked the two groups of missionaries to establish themselves in the city with the permission of Bishop de Bausset.

Serious difficulties arose in 1822-1823, on the occasion of the reestablishing of the diocese of Marseilles. When it was question of following up on the previously established appointment of Fortuné de Mazenod, the Missionaries of France, with the support of a few pious women, wanted to see Forbin-Janson appointed bishop and organized a campaign against the bishop designate, presenting him as an exhausted, incompetent old man. Bishop Fortuné considered this unjust campaign offensive. He was appointed bishop of Marseilles by royal decree of Janury 13, 1823 and upon his return from Paris in the course of the summer, he closed down the house of the Missionaries of France in order to squelch that hotbed of public opposition to his person and his authority. Mr. de Rauzan and Forbin-Janson had little hand in this controversy and continued to maintain friendly relations with Bishop Eugene de Mazenod.

Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.