The foundation date for the Society of Mary, Marianists is October 2, 1817. It was, however the second foundation of what at the time was called the Institute of Mary since the Marianist Sisters, the Daughters of Mary (Immaculate – FMI), had come into existence May 25, 1816, more than one year before, in collaboration with Blessed Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon. Both had arisen out of the Marian Sodality – which had many affiliated sodalities throughout southwestern France – begun by Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade in Bordeaux, France at the end of 1800 and the beginning of 1801.
The founder, William Joseph Chaminade, was a diocesan priest from the diocese of Périgueux where he had been born in 1761. At the beginning of the French Revolution he had come to Bordeaux (in 1790) and exercised his ministry there for the rest of his life except for a period of exile (and retreat) in Saragossa Spain (1797-1800) during the Revolution.
His brother Jean Baptiste had been a Jesuit novice and scholastic until the suppression of the Jesuits in France in 1762, at which time he returned home, was ordained a diocesan priest, and became part of a group of diocesan missionaries which ran a minor seminary in the town of Mussidan (between Périgueux and Bordeaux). His two brothers, Louis and William Joseph, joined him there as students, were both ordained by 1785, and then continued to work with him in running the school. Jean Baptiste was the Director, William Joseph the business manager, and Louis one of the teachers.
At the beginning of the French Revolution William Joseph went to Bordeaux where he exercised a clandestine ministry and managed to elude the police until there was a peaceful time beginning in 1795. After a period of public ministry laws against priests were reinstated, and he was forced to go into exile in 1797. He chose Saragossa Spain where there is the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar (Mary appeared on a pillar to the Apostle James to encourage him when he was evangelising Spain). Marianist tradition holds that Fr. Chaminade had a private revelation, and it has traditionally been placed here in Saragossa at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. He never said much explicitly about this revelation, and the evidence for it comes from a few chance remarks made in passing and his ongoing conviction that Mary herself was the founder of the Society of Mary and that he was only putting into concrete terms what she wanted.
The ministry which occupied him for the rest of his life began in earnest upon his return from exile in November 1800. By December he had opened a small oratory and was exercising his ministry there when he proposed to some young men of Bordeaux to begin the Marian Sodality, what today might be something like the Small (or Basic) Christian Communities or a youth movement. Today Marianists call such groups Marianist Lay Communities. In the movement or organization he eventually included sections for young women, married men and married women and priests. Within the Sodality, some groups of people took private vows and these groups are the inspiration for what is today, the Alliance Mariale. Fr. Chaminade was successful enough that other groups in other towns in southwestern France wanted to be affiliated to the Bordeaux Sodality and modelled themselves on its organization. Most of this activity was centered on the Chapel of the Madeleine. These were lay people providing support in living a Christian life to one another and acting as a means of re-evangelization after the Revolution by actively attracting others to join this interesting and active association.
The foundress of the Marianist Sisters, Adele de Batz de Trenquelléon, was the leader of one of the affiliated sodalities and had come into contact with Fr. Chaminade in 1808. By 1816she and a number of her companions in the Association were interested in religious life and under Fr. Chaminade’s direction began the Daughters of Mary in May 1816 at Agen. The idea of the founders was to have a group which would continue the apostolate begunwithin the sodality and be a help and a support to the sodality group. A year later, after the great mission of Bordeaux preached by the Missionaries of France of Fr. Rauzan, amember of the Bordeaux Sodality group, Jean-Baptiste Lalanne (21 years old), went to Fr. Chaminade (who was 56 at the time) offering himself as his collaborator. From this meeting came the beginnings of the Society of Mary. Lalanne and Chaminade recruited four others from the Sodality to the idea. At the end of a discernment retreat they founded the Society of Mary on October 2, 1817, feast of the Holy Guardian Angels.
They too had the idea to found a society which would be parallel to the Society of Jesus (which by this time had been re-established in France). They considered themselves missionaries, and the Society a permanent mission. They had had a particular devotion to the Immaculate Conception to which the Sodality had been dedicated (according to Fr. Armbruster, SM, a way of doing something extra to show devotion to Mary since the dogma had not yet been proclaimed). They too continued to be part of the Sodality and to help and support it, while at the same time entering into an apostolate of education (a number of the first members were teachers at a private secondary school run by one of the sodalists in Bordeaux). Another particular feature of the foundation was that it would include a real mix of people: priests and lay, as well as teachers and workers (or professionals and artisans; those with liberal education and those with technical skills). In fact, the first members included two seminarians, three teachers, a couple of businessmen and a couple of barrel makers.
Marianist holy places – Bordeaux, Périgueux, Mussidan, Agen, the Chateau of Trenquelléon, the Chapel of the Madeleine – with the exception of Saragossa (which functions as a real holy place of inspiration), tend to take second place to Marianist expressions: “the Lord has chosen new wars,” a “nation of saints,” “multiplication of Christians,” “You are all missionaries,” “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).
Marianists claim a devotion to the person of Mary and her mission rather than to single devotional practice. Members of the SM celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Mary on September 12 as a patronal feast and say that it is in her honor that religious profession is made.
Fr. Chaminade died on January 22, 1850, after ten difficult years which included the succession to the second superior general. He was beatified on September 3, 2000 along with John XXIII, Pius IX, Columba Marmion, and Thomas Reggio.
Mother Adele died on January 10, 1828. Her beatification took place on June 10, 2018 in Agen.
During the lifetime of the founders the Marianists became heavily involved in education in schools, both primary and secondary and began a world wide expansion, first to Switzerland during the founder’s lifetime and shortly afterward, North America. In the 1880’s there was a very significant expansion to Canada, the Hawaiian Islands, Spain, Japan, North Africa. In more recent years threre have been implantations in various countries in Africa, and South America, in India, to mention a few.
Since the days of the Founders, Marianists have also been involved in a diversity of works. Today, in addition to their commitment to the
apostolate of education, there is a great emphasis on work with Marianist Lay Communities, and many other ministries which help to develop personal faith and communities of faith in book publishing, parishes, spirituality centers, development programs, just to name a few.
The Marianist Family today is spread around the world in more that 40 countries and is comprised of about ten thousand members. The Marianist Family is comprised of separate, yet interconnected, branches: Lay Marianist Communities (MLC-CLM), the Alliance Mariale (AM), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (Marianist sisters – FMI) and the Society of Mary (Marianist Brothers and Priests – SM).
Collaboration among the branches is a hallmark of Marianist life today with Marianist Laity, Brothers, Priests, and Sisters working together to
respond to the needs of our times and to address spiritual growth within the Marianist Family.
News and Information - World Council
About the Marianist Family
The Marianist Family today is spread around the world. It is comprised of separate, yet interconnected, branches: Lay Marianist Communities (MLC-CLM), the Alliance Mariale (AM), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (FMI) and the Society of Mary (SM).
We share these documents with you for your information and as a resource for developing a better understanding of the identity and mission of the Marianist Family.
Statutes & Objectives 2018-2021
Statutes of the World Council.
Objectives proposed by the World Council of the Marianist Family for