About Us 

Marist: a certain idea   |   The Marist Family   |   The Marist Fathers   |   Beginnings of the Australian Marist Province   |   More about Fr Jean-Claude Colin


 Marists: a certain idea...

The idea of the 'Society of Mary'and a family of Marists came to a young man, Jean-Claude Courveille, kneeling before the statue of the Blessed Virgin in the cathedral shrine of Le Puy, France, in 1812. He had been cured of blindness at this place.

Returning each year on the Assumption feast he heard 'with the ears of my soul' Our Lady speaking to him, requesting a religious family to be formed bearing her name. They would be know as 'Marists'.

In the diocesan seminary of Lyons he shared the dream with fellow seminarians, including Jean-Claude Colin.

On the day of Courveille's first Mass, July 23, 1816, twelve young men pledged to form the Society of Mary as soon as they could. They did this kneeling before the image of Mary and Child in the ancient chapel of the Blessed Virgin at Fourvière overlooking the city of Lyons.

 About Us Le Puy 0512 Le Puy candle 6J


The cathedral shrine of
Our Lady at Le Puy:
'...they shall be known as Marists'

The Marist Family

Following his ordination and the Fourvière event, Fr Jean-Claude Colin was appointed to work with his brother, Pierre, in the mountain parish of Cerdon in the mountains to the east of Lyon and near the Swiss border. It was here that Jean-Claude began preparations for what was to become the Marist family.

Two women who would become Marists soon joined the Colin brothers at Cerdon and before long established the first community of Marist Sisters. Jeanne-Marie Chavoin was their leader.

In the meantime, another of the Fourvière twelve, Fr Marcellin Champagnat, had begun gathering young men around him to form the teaching order of the Marist Brothers.

On October 29, 1824, Fr Etienne Déclas, joined the Colins in Cerdon to form the first community of Marist Fathers. Pierre Colin wrote to the local bishop that day: 'Today the Society of Mary has begun.'

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The village of Cerdon,
nestling in the congruence
of three valleys in the
Bugey mountains of France.

The Marist Fathers

Jean-Claude Colin work tirelessly for twenty years to gain the Church's approval for the Marist project.

Eventually, on Apr 29, 1836, the Marist Fathers' branch was approved by Rome after Fr Colin agreed that they should become missionaries for the vast areas of the south-west Pacific.

On Sep 24, 1836, the Marist pioneers made their religious profession and elected Jean-Claude Colin as their Superior-General. 

On Christmas Eve that year, the first Marist missionaries left France for the distant Pacific. A young Fr Peter Chanel was amongst them.

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The steps of the chapel
of La Capucinière, Belley,
on which the pioneer Marists
knelt to profess their religious vows,
Sep 24, 1836

Beginnings of the Australian Marist Province

The first Marist contact with Australia came in 1837. Using Sydney as a supply base to support their efforts in missions throughout the vast South Pacific, the early members of the Society of Mary were based in various places around Sydney until they took up permanent residence at Villa Maria, Hunters Hill in 1847.

The Australian community was part of the Pacific missions province (Oceania) until 1926 and then part of the New Zealand province of the Society of Mary until 1938. In that year the province of Australia was established.

The provincial superior lived at St Patrick's, Church Hill in Sydney until 1966, after which the provincial headquarters were moved to Hunters Hill.

Today Marists work in three states of Australia, with a special focus on the city-centre ministry of St Patrick's, Church Hill, Sydney, and the provision of aid for developing countries and those in special need through the Marist Mission Centre.

About Us 0514 VMaria 1



Villa Maria monastery,
Hunters Hill, NSW,
home for generations
of missionaries and
many of today's Marists.



More about Fr Jean-Claude Colin...

Soon after his death in 1875, the Cause for Beatification of Fr Colin was introduced.  In 2010 renewed attention was given to the Cause and a dedicated web site set up: www.jeanclaudecolin.org

Go there for more about his life and the early Marist history, as well as multi-lingual resources of prayer and devotion.

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The forest of Barbery, France, 
near the birthplace of 
Jean-Claude Colin.

The Colin family would sometimes 
shelter their priest here, 
safe from militant Revolutionaries.

Later,a young Jean-Claude 
would come here 
for quiet and solitude.




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Short biographies of Fr Jean-Claude Colin can be downloaded from here: