Fr Jean Claude Colin
Fr Jean Claude Colin
Founder of the Society of Mary, Father Jean-Claude Colin was to have the most profound impact on the shape of the Marist Fathers today.
A retiring and shy man by nature, his life as a Marist would transform his life. Entering his first appointment as a priest in the town of Cerdon, the retiring, shy Colin became a fearless preacher, loving confessor and exemplar of the Marian spirit. Over his lifetime, he was able to articulate what Marist life is, leaving with us his Constitutions for the Society of Mary along with numerous books which catalogue his insights.
Absolute trust in God and a spirit of indifference were two hallmarks of Jean-Claude Colin. Like Mary, Colin encouraged Marists to trust God in all things and to make true in their lives the words of Mary "I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your will." Understanding Marists as Sons of Mary, Colin encouraged Marists to live a life that was focused on Christ and lived out in a manner that reflected the openness, generosity and mercy of Mary.
Born in 1790, the eighth of nine children, Jean-Claude Colin's early years were to be very difficult. On the background of the revolution, Jean-Claude was to lose both his mother and father at age five. A while later he himself took ill and was distressed that as he lay on his sick bed, his siblings and relations only talked of how to divide his goods. When he recovered, this memory would lead him to a profound disdain of wealth that is reflected today in the simplicity of Marist life. These early events lead Colin to a life of scrupulosity and solitude. A dramatic change would occur during his early ministries, where inspired by the need to do Mary's work, Colin became a priest of courage, direction and zeal.
Entering the seminary, he meet up with Jean-Claude Courveille who shared with him his vision for a Society in Mary's name. "That's suits me!" was Colin's response and from then till his death in 1875, he worked unceasingly to bring the Society the Mary about.
The years from there were to be industrious for Colin, particularly after becoming the central superior in 1830. In this role, and later as the Society's first Superior General, Colin would guide the Society of Mary to approval in 1836, write the Constitutions for both the Society of Mary and the Marist Sisters, send the first missionaries to Oceania oversee the initial expansion of the Society and continue to be an inspiration and guide to aspiring Marists.