Marist Brothers

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The Marist Brothers, or Little Brothers of Mary, are a Catholic religious order of brothers and affiliated lay people. The order was founded in France, at La Valla-en-Gier near Lyon in 1817 by Saint Marcellin Champagnat, a young French priest of the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers). The order is characteristically Marian.

Worldwide, there are more than 4,500 brothers working in 77 countries on 6 continents. They directly share their mission and spirituality with more than 40,000 laypeople, and together educate close to 500,000 children and young people in schools.



Saint Marcellin Champagnat,
founder of the Marist Brothers

Marcellin, disillusioned with the encroaching culture of post-revolution secularism that gripped the areas of rural France where he worked, decided to start an order of consecrated brothers in the Marian tradition, building schools for the underprivileged where they might learn to become "Good Christians and Good people". The decision to found an order of teachers crystallized one day while working as a parish priest called to administer the last rites to a dying teen boy named Jean Baptiste Montagne. Trying to lead the boy through his last moments in prayer, Marcellin was struck by the fact that the young man had no gauge of Christianity or prayer. From that moment Champagnat knew his mission in life was to right this wrong, and create an order of teaching brothers to meet the faith needs of the young people of France. On January 2, 1817, the 23-year-old Jean Marie Granjon and Jean Baptist Audras, fourteen and a half years of age, moved into the small house that Fr. Champagnat had rented for them in LaValla and which became the first Marist Brothers community. Their day consisted of prayer, work and study; their manual work was to make nails, an activity that helped to pay expenses. Marcellin taught them reading and writing, and he looked after their formation as religious educators. Other young men joined the undertaking, among them Gabriel Rivat who, as Brother François, would later become the Brothers' first Superior General.

As a Marist priest, Champagnat had a particular affinity for the Blessed Virgin Mary, so upon conception of the idea of Marist Brothers, Champagnat chose to call his brothers Petits Frères de Marie (Little Brothers of Mary), emphasising the meekness and humbleness he wished them to pursue, and seeking their consecration to Her as an exemplar of fidelity to Christ. In 1863, 23 years after Champagnat's death, the Marist Brothers institute received the approbation of the Holy See, whereupon the order received the title of Fratres Maristae a Scolis (Marist Brothers of the Schools), hence the post-nominal letters of FMS. They received a particular mandate to follow the Marist Fathers to the Pacific and administer to the new colonies of the Pacific nations and Australia. This harkens back to a Marist legend about Champagnat. A favourite maxim of St. Marcellin was that he wanted "to make Jesus known and loved" throughout the world, and to demonstrate he would run a needle through an apple (representing the earth) as an example of how he wanted the message of "Ad Jesum per Mariam" or "To Jesus through Mary" to cross the globe. The end of the needle came out in what would be the equivalent of the Pacific in relation to France where he inserted the needle, and so thus the Marist Brothers have a well-recognised presence throughout the Pacific, but particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

An international presence

The Marist Brothers are not clerics, but are involved in educational work throughout the world and now conduct primary and secondary schools, academies, industrial schools, orphanages and retreat houses in 77 countries on six continents: Europe, Africa, The Americas, Asia, and Oceania.

From their humble roots in Lyons, the Brothers today have spread across the globe, seeking to fulfill Marcellin's dream of "making Jesus known and loved".However, this ideal has been compromised by several brothers and Marist schools as they experience institutionalisation and a successful reputation at the expense of students who lack awareness of life skills and self benefits.An example of this is the "fail out" system used by Archbishop Molloy High School in the United States. Over their nearly 200 year history, Marist Brothers have had ministries in over 100 different nations. Presently there are approximately 4,300 brothers in 76 countries on 5 continents, working directly and sharing their mission and spirituality with more than 40,000 lay Marists, and together educating close to 500,000 children and young people.

The international Marist brotherhood is led by a "Superior General", currently Emili Turu. Together with the Vicar General and a General Council, it is his job to guide the growth and administration of the various ministries of the Marists across the globe, from the General House in Rome. The Marist brothers are divided into two main administrative units, either "provinces" or "districts", depending on size. Provinces are led by "Provincials", whose job it is to oversee and make deliberations on behalf of the Superior General for the Province he leads. There are presently 26 provinces and 5 districts. Depending on the extent of ministries within a certain country, there may be multiple provinces within the one country. For example, Brazil has three provinces and two districts and Australia has two, as does Mexico.



Marist Brothers in the world


The Marist Brothers first international mandate was to the Pacific, where they accompanied Marist Fathers in evangelizing and education ministries. Today, Marist brothers own and run many technical colleges in the Central and Western Pacific, educating young men in nations ravaged by war (such as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea).

Marist Brothers arrived in Australia in 1872 where they opened their first school at The Rocks. There are now over 300 Brothers working with young people in schools as teachers and administrators, in retreat houses and camps for young people and in other areas of ministry. Australian Marist Brothers also serve in welfare ministries working with young adults in outreach programs in Indigenous Australian communities and also in missions in nearby Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and East Timor. Marists from Australia also serve communities in Cambodia and India. The two provinces are Melbourne (States of Victoria, WA, South Australia and Northern Territory) and Sydney (Queensland, New South Wales, ACT and Cambodia).

Oceania is divided into the following 4 Administrative Units:

Marist Brothers are noted for the impact they have had on Catholic Education in the Oceania region. As of 3 December 2007, the Prime Ministers of Australia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were all educated by Marist Brothers.


Europe is the heartland of the Marist project, centring particularly on the region of France which Marcellin called home. Many schools, universities, youth ministries and social works are done by the Marists in this area. The administration of European Marists is done by:

  • Province of Compostela (Spain, Honduras and Portugal)
  • Province of West Central Europe (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and United Kingdom)
  • Province of Iberia (Spain)
  • Province de l'Hermitage (Algeria, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary and Switzerland)
  • Mediterranean Province (Spain, Italy, Lebanon and Syria)


Celtic Football Club was formed at a meeting in St. Mary's church hall in Glasgow, by Marist Brother Walfrid on November 6, 1887, with the purpose stated in the official club records as "being to alleviate poverty in Glasgow's East End parishes". The charity established by Brother Walfrid was named 'The Poor Children's Dinner Table'.

North America

The North American provinces are particularly based around secondary and tertiary education. Many American celebrities have been educated in American Marist schools, including Sean "P Diddy" Combs, David Hasselhoff, Ray Romano and many others. The North American provinces are:

  • Province of Canada
  • Province of the United States (USA and Japan)

Latin America

In Latin America, "Maristas" are also very active in the following countries: Chile, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and other countries as well. The largest number of brothers currently are natives from Spain and France. The Marist presence in these countries is divided into the following provinces: Brazil :

  • District of Amazonia (Brazil)
  • Federal District (Brazil)
  • Province of North Central Brazil
  • Province of South Central Brazil
  • Province of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil)

Rest of Latin America :

  • Province of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica)
  • Province of the Southern Cross (Argentina and Uruguay)
  • Province of Central Mexico
  • Province of Western Mexico (Mexico and Haiti)
  • Province of the Northern Andes (Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela)
  • District of Paraguay
  • Province of Santa Maria of the Andes (Bolivia, Chile and Peru)


Marist brothers are active in a number of African countries, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Marist brothers have been martyred in Africa on many occasions for educating and protecting refugee people. The administrative groupings of Marists in Africa are:

Marist Saints and Martyrs

Many Marist Brothers have also been martyred for teaching and reaching out to the poor and uneducated in places where they are not welcome.[1] Some are also pending investigation into the possibility of canonisation. On October 31, 1996, four Brothers were killed by refugees and martyred in a mission in Nyamirangwe (Bugobe), Zaire. These brothers were all Spanish: Br. Fernando de la Fuente de la Fuente, Br. Miguel Ángel Isla Lucio, Br. Servando Mayor García, and Br. Julio Rodríguez Jorge.

On October 28, 2007, the Vatican beatified 498 saints who died as martyrs in the Spanish Civil War. Among the 498 were 47 Marist Brothers from the dioceses of Burgos, Cartagena, Girona, Lleida, Palencia, Pamplona and Tudela, San Sebastian, Solsona, Terrassa, Teruel and Albarracin, Urgell and Vic. The Beatification Mass was presided over by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.

Noteworthy Marist Brothers

See also


  1. ^ "Marist martyrs". The MARIST Brothers. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 

External links

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