About us

Spirit of Society of Mary

'Our Society is not characterized by any special works or by the promotion of a particular form of Marian devotion but by the desire to make the mystery of Mary in the Church the daily inspiration of our life and action.

'Hence everything in the Society will reflect the one concern of every Marist: To set the interests of Christ and the Church before his own, By spontaneously effacing himself with that generous, cheerful abnegation of which Mary had the secret.'

                Marist Statement of Objectives

Mural of Mary at Pentecost near the tomb
of Marist founder, Jean-Claude Colin SM,
La Neyliere, France

Mission of Society of Mary

'To Build a New Church'

Each religious congregation has a 'mission' or specific task. It is a distinguishing feature. The mission sums up the reason for the existence of the group.

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 four separate religious congregations and a lay branch, is commonly known as the Marist Family.

The authorities in Rome during the middle of the 19th century considered it too difficult to have one single congregation composed of religious men and women, priests and laity

.All efforts on the part of those entrusted with the implementation of the Marist project came to naught.

Gradually, certainly around the 1850's, the various founding Marists and their associates began to realize that there would have to be separate congregations.

Painting of the 'Four Marist Founders with Mary and Child', Marist international novitiate, Dumalag, Mindanao, Philippines


Beginnings of the Marist Family

The idea of the Society of Mary came to a young man, Jean-Claude Courveille, 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 Fourviere overlooking the city of Lyons.

The black Madonna and Child, Le Puy

Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, Fourviere


The Marist Fathers

After his ordination in 1816 Fr Jean-Claude Colin was appointed to work with his brother, Pierre, in the mountain parish of Cerdon. It was here that Jean-Claude began preparations for what was to become the Marist family.

On October 29, 1824 a third priest, Fr Eitienne Declas, joined them to form the first community of Marist Fathers. Pierre Colin wrote to the local bishop that day: 'Today the Society of Mary has begun.'

The Marist Fathers were approved on Apr 29, 1836, and immediately undertook responsibility for the newly opened mission areas of the south-west South Pacific.


See also: 'On whatever distant shore' -- the story of Fr Jean-Claude Colin and his place in founding of the Society of Mary

Jean-Claude Colin



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.

Villa Maria monastery, Hunters Hill

At the beginning of the 1950's, a number of Marists from Australia went to Japan to assist in post-war reconstruction, and to establish a mission. Since that time, the Japanese region has been a part of the Australian province.

Today eighty-five Fathers and Brothers belong to the province.  The seek to do the work of Christ in the spirit of Mary.