Jane Frances de Chantal was born in Dijon, France on January 23, 1572; the second child of Bengine Freymont and Marguerite Berbisey. Her father was president of the parliament of Burgundy. Her mother died in childbirth when Jane was 18 months old. Her father became the main influence in her life and was responsible for her growth in faith and in learning.
In 1592 Jane married the Baron de Chantal with whom she had six children, three
dying in infancy. Jane took care of her husband's estate and was engaged in numerous works of charity. Her happiness was short lived when her husband was killed in a hunting accident in 1601. To safeguard the inheritance of her children, Jane then lived with her father-in-law, his mistress, and their children. This was a very difficult time in her life. in 1604 Jane's father invited her to attend a series of Lenten sermons preached by Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva. This was to be a milestone in her life. Her commitment to God impressed the bishop who became her spiritual director and friend. She wanted to become a religious but he persuaded her to defer her decision. She took a vow to never marry again and to be obedient to her spiritual director.
Francis de Sales shared with Jane his vision of establishing an institute of women which would accept those whose health or other considerations prevented them from entering the already established religious orders. There would be no cloister and they would be free to undertake the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They would exemplify the virtues of humility and meekness, the virtues the Blessed Virgin exemplified at the Visitation, hence the name the Congregation of the Visitation. The Congregation was established on Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1610 in Annecy. Opposition obliged Francis de Sales to make it a cloistered community following the rule of St. Augustine.
Jane spent the rest of her life overseeing the growth of this new community. Her reputation for sanctity became widespread and many flocked to her for guidance. When Francis de Sales died in 1622, there were 13 houses of the Visitation. When Jane herself died on December 13, 1641 there were 86. The order continued to grow and at the time of her canonization in 1767 there were 164 Visitation convents. In the United states her feast is observed on August 18th.