St Marcellin Champagnat
Founder of the Little Brothers of Mary, Co-founder of the Marist Fathers and Brothers
Marcellin Champagnat was born at Marlhes in France in 1789. He was born during the turbulent time of the French Revolution. His father held an important position in local politics and he introduced Marcellin to many practical skills. No doubt he also learnt to be open to the movements of his time.
In 1803 he was asked if he would like to be a priest. He thought about it and committed himself to the task with outstanding dedication, even from an early age. Despite his own lack of sound, formal education, he worked hard at his studies and from 1805 until 1813 attended several minor seminaries.
He always valued the role of education and it is not surprising that providing a good education for children and the young became a very important passion in his life.
On Nov 01, 1813 Marcellin and his companions entered the seminary of St Irenaeus in Lyons, France.
It was there, over the next few years, that he met many of those who were inspired with the idea of founding a religious congregation dedicated to the work of Mary.
During the academic year of 1815-1816 the Marist aspirants discussed their hopes and made their plans for the founding of the Society of Mary. They all shared the same vision which they expressed in the symbol of a tree with several branches. They envisaged a congregation of three branches: priests, sisters, and a third order of lay people, all of whom would undertake the 'work of Mary.'
At the suggestion and insistence of Marcellin ('We need brothers!'), an additional branch of teaching brothers was added. This was the special contribution of Marcellin to the Marist project.
Following ordination in 1816, Marcellin was appointed to the mountain parish of La Valla where he began immediately the work of founding 'Little Brothers of Mary'.
With outstanding dedication and great personal charisma he gathered a community around him and attended to the urgent need of providing Christian education to many of the young people of his region.
Soon many others were attracted to his work and schools flourished throughout France and later, to places all over the world.
Marcellin also shared responsibility for the foundation of the priests' branch of the congregation. He worked tirelessly in the area of Lyons to promote the beginnings of the Society of Mary and following formal ecclesiastical approval in 1836 took his vows along with the first Marists.
Marcellin died on Jun 06, 1840 at the age of 51 years.
On the Apr 18, 1999 Pope John Paul II proclaimed Marellin Joseph Benoit Champagnat a saint of the Church of God. We celebrate St Marcellin's feast day on Jun 06 each year.
The Hermitage, France, built by Marcellin Champagnat and his Brothers with their own hands.