The original dream for the Society of Mary was a religious congregation composed of both men and women, religious and lay. Today this group, which now comprises 4 separate religious congregations and a lay branch is commonly known as the Marist Family – the Marist Fathers, Marist Sisters, Marist Brothers and Marist Missionary Sisters.
The Marist Fathers were founded in France in 1816. The Founder of the Marist Fathers is Fr Jean-Claude Colin, a Frenchman (1790-1875). Marist Spirituality is largely based on the vision of Jean-Claude Colin. A phrase that was central to his understanding of religious life was ‘Hidden & Unknown in the world”. For Colin this sentence is exemplary for the way Mary lived the Gospel in a humble, modest & simple way. The Marists are called to imitate Mary in this way of life & ministry. Colin said Marists must “.. think as Mary, judge as Mary, feel as Mary & act as Mary in all things”. Colin called the missionary & pastoral activity of the Marists the“work of Mary”. Marists are called to be “instruments of Mary” for the human family. As Mary was a healing presence in the Early Church so the Marists want to be present in the Church of today.
The Marist Fathers were approved by Pope Gregory XVI on April 29th, 1836 and began its missionary work in Oceania & continued its work in secondary or college education in France.
Today the Marist Fathers has a General Administration in Rome, operates in 7 Provinces – New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, Europe, Mexico, Oceania, and in 4 Mission Districts – Africa (Senegal & Cameroon), Brazil, Peru-Venezuela, Philippines. There are around 1,000 Marist Fathers worldwide.