Francis (1567-1622) was born into one of the most important noble families of the Duchy of Savoy. He was brought up with the expectation that he would become a magistrate and was taught the ‘gentlemanly’ pursuits of riding, dancing and fencing. A theological conversation when he was 19 convinced him that he was damned to hell. After a period of despair and physical illness he made his way to the parish of Saint Etienne in Paris and there before a statue of Our Lady he prayed the Memorare and dedicated himself to the Blessed Virgin, making a vow of chastity.
He went to the University of Padua in Italy and studied law and theology, achieving doctorates in both subjects in 1592. He made up his mind to become a priest and made a pilgrimage to the Holy House at Loreto. Although his father continued to hope that he would marry and live the life of a nobleman, Francis resisted, until a cousin persuaded the Bishop of Geneva to appoint him Provost of the Cathedral Chapter, and his father acceded to his vocation.
He was thought to be an effective preacher and confessor and conducted many missions. In 1599 he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Geneva and in 1602 he became the diocesan bishop. He acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher; his motto was ‘He who preaches with love preaches effectively.’ In 1665 he was canonised and in 1877 Pope Pius IX declared him a Doctor (teacher) of the Church.