Doing the Work of Mary
Marists are men and women who strive to live the Gospel the way Mary lived it. We are scattered to the four corners of the world but united in one heart and one mind under the patronage of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We gather into religious congregations and lay movements: The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, the Marist Sisters, the Marist Brothers, the Priests and Brothers of the Society of Mary, and many lay groups of Marist inspiration.
The Marist Fathers and Brothers were started by a group of 12 seminarians in Lyon France around 1816. For the next twenty years four of them (Fr. Jean Claude Colin, Fr. Marcellin Champagnat, Fr. Etienne Declas and Fr. Etienne Terraillion) would devote their energies to making the Marist Project a reality. Fr. Jean-Claude Colin is acknowledged as the Founder of the Marist Fathers and Brothers having taken a leadership role since the 1820’s. In 1836, the Holy See approved the Marist Fathers and Brother (Society of Mary). The Church saw them as missionaries bringing the Good News in Mary’s way — being a presence in the Church as Mary was in the early Church. Their early works included mission at home and in the western South Pacific and the education of youth.
The Marists came to the United States in 1863 during the middle of the American Civil War landing in New Orleans to undertake a mission to French speaking people along the River Road in Louisiana. Within a year of their arrival they founded a school and began an education ministry that extends to the present. Some 90 Marist Fathers and Brothers live and work in the United States today.
A crucial part of the work of Marists is to invite and pass their spirit on to others particularly lay people. Fr. Colin and the other early Marists believed that the work given to them also belonged to dedicated lay people who would immerse themselves in the Marist spirit and give it life in a variety of different places.
Today some 900 Marist Fathers and Brothers minister throughout the world. They are in ten regions united by their commitment to the vowed Marist life lived in common and under the leadership of their superior general and his leadership team.
We invite you to discover that true strength is found in gentleness. Marist spirituality invites us to embrace this liberating truth, which comes to us from the heart of God, by following Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Like Mary, we too can hear the gentle rhythms of the grace of God in our lives by making our own her manner of thinking, judging, feeling, and acting.
The following Clarifying Statement of Marist Identity of the USA Province was adopted in Assembly and ratified by Chapter in June 2013:
Mary of Nazareth, the first disciple of the Lord and Mother of the Church, is the heart of our identity as Marists. This remarkable woman of faith has called us to this way of life. We believe that we have been called by a "gracious choice" into the family of Mary. It is her work that we do and so we commit ourselves to think, judge, feel and act as she did.
As a consequence, these qualities mark us as Marists: mercy and compassion, availability, welcome and hospitality, simplicity manifest in everyday ordinariness and a common touch. We are self-effacing apostles who demonstrate a spirit of joy and respect for others; we are called to be humble and hidden and unknown in the world.
Our spirituality, which is both mystical and practical, responds to the reality and circumstances of today's world. Jean-Claude Colin, acting on what he believed to be Mary’s desire, encouraged us to establish a Marian Church, a Church with the heart of a mother beating at its center.
At our best, we are instruments of God's mercy working to help others taste the boundless love of the Lord, especially those who find themselves on the margins. As Marists, we seek to go where the Church is not. We should enable all with whom we come into contact to experience the gift of reconciliation as well as peace of heart and mind.