Icon of Mary and the founder of the Society of Mary, Fr Jean Claude Colin

Icon of Mary and the founder of the Society of Mary, Fr Jean Claude Colin

Marists prefer to work where the Church doesn’t exist or where it is not strong. For that reason they are often out on the ‘boundaries’ – new suburbs, immigrant communities, youth work, communications media, prisons, rural and urban indigenous groups…

How Mary would do it

This preference comes from their spirit. It’s the spirit of Mary. They ask themselves, ‘What would Mary do?’ Most likely, as a mother, she would be concerned about her children – any children – who are sick, falling behind, or excluded in some way. And she would go by ‘the main road’ or ‘the back road’ to help them get on their feet.

Mary’s spirit determines what sort of work Marists prefer to do. It also determines the way they try to work. Like a mother… low key, practical, personal, ‘whatever works’, after hours, impervious to rejection….

Common Dream

There is great diversity among Marists, but this dream is held by all. We like it. It’s very satisfying and we’ve found that it works.

And it’s been that way, for a long time. This dream first inspired a group of seminarians – the first Marists back in the 1800’s in France. Jean Claude Colin was their leader. Among them were Marcellin Champagnat and Peter Chanel who later became saints.

New Zealand home grown

New Zealand and Marists have grown up together. Marists were the first priests to come to this country. The first bishop of New Zealand, Pompallier, was one of them. The pope at that time could not find priests for these remote islands. But to the young Marists, the call seemed perfect. Weren’t the people of the South Pacific ‘uncared for’ and ‘left out’? Weren’t they just the people that Mary, a mother, would want to help? The pope entrusted much of the South Pacific to those young Marists. Many dozens came here to help build up the church where it did not exist. That work continues here and elsewhere.


Today Marists are in Africa, Oceania, Latin and North America, Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. There are several branches – lay people, sisters, brothers, and priests.