International Centre of the Sisters of St. Joseph

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Francis de Sales Scholar Visits the Centre

Occasionally, people come to the Centre either seeking us out deliberately or by chance. Thomas Donlan had come to Le Puy in order to make a five-day pilgrimage on the Camino. He had heard the Sisters of St. Joseph had connections with St. Francis de Sales and he wanted to know how. Eluiza and Olga talked with him for two mutually-enriching hours about the Salesian influence of "gentleness, peace, and joy," which was a stark contrast to 17th century France in which the Church played a militant role in its policies.

Thomas had recently completed doctoral studies in history at the University of Arizona and written his thesis on Francis de Sales who was one of the leaders of the Church calling for a different approach to this militancy. He subsequently published a book titled: Reform of Zeal: François de Sales and Militant Catholicism, published by St. Andrews University Press as an e-book. To download it, click here.

As the précis of his book says, The Reform of Zeal explores the origins, nature, and impact of François de Sales’s vision of Catholic douceur (gentleness) in the era of the French Wars of Religion. Since Natalie Zemon Davis’s pioneering work on the "rites of violence," scholarship has focused on the militant Catholic cultures of early modern France. Taking a fresh approach to de Sales’s work as a missionary, spiritual director, and founder of the Order of Visitation, this volume documents the evolution of de Sales’s spirituality and his championing of religious cultures of nonviolence within French Catholicism. The Reform of Zeal argues that Salesian douceur not only constituted one of the most effective critiques of French Catholic militancy in the period, but also a unique source of religious renewal in the seventeenth century, independent of Leaguer and early dévot fervour.

Thomas is originally from Highland Falls, NY, about 100 miles north of Manhattan. He completed his undergraduate degree at Notre Dame University and a master's degree in religious studies at Yale. He teaches at Brophy College Preparatory, a Jesuit school that serves young men in 6th-12th grades in Phoenix, AZ.  His courses include the history of the Catholic Church as well as "Jesus, Catholicism and Violence" He previously taught high school in New York. In addition to teaching, Thomas moderates the Middle Eastern Club and leads the Appalachia immersion trip.


  1. Cette traduction dans l'Espagnol, n'est pas bonne. Je ne comprend pas beaucoup de les phrases.

  2. We are overjoyed for Tom on the publication of this book and on his visit to Le Puy. The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph is very near and dear to our hearts.

    Margaret and Jeff Flagg

  3. We are overjoyed for Tom on the occasion of his visit to Le Puy and the publication of his book. The mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph is very near and dear to our hearts.

    Margaret and Jeff Flagg


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