The Religious

The Marist Brothers

Logo of the Marist Brothers

The Marist Brothers have been asked in 2016 by the Most Reverend John Ha, the Archbishop of Kuching to run St Joseph’s International School in Kuching.

The Marist Brothers have ministered in Kuching before. In 1967, Bishop John Vos invited the Marist Brothers to run St Lucas’ School, which then had a student population of over 500. This school was built on a 2.7 acre site at 10th Mile (now Kota Padawan). The school catered for those who had to re-sit the entrance exam to secondary school and those others who could not study at the government secondary schools.

After four years, the Marist Brothers returned the school to the diocese due to the lack of available religious brothers. It closed down by 1980. Today, its building serves as a facility for pastoral formation and is designated as St Lukas’ Centre.

The Marist Brothers are a group of men who are educators, youth ministers, counsellors, social workers and missionaries. It is a religious congregation of the Catholic Church. It was founded in 1817 by St Marcellin Champagnat (1789 – 1840) in France. The Marist Brothers run hundreds of schools around the world.

Foremost for the Marist Brothers is to make Jesus known and loved through the Christian education of youth, especially the most neglected. Schools have been a favoured arena for the Brothers’ apostolic work. As a religious congregation, they share their vocation together, living simple lives in communities that serve others.

St Marcellin Champagnat (1789 – 1840) )

Their founder was born the son of poor French peasants in a rural area, in the village of Le Rosey near the city of Lyons in southern France and grew up during the difficult years of the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, experienced violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon. The Revolution also caused a massive shift of power from the Catholic Church to the state. During this period all religious orders were dissolved. Monks and nuns were encouraged to return to the secular life and a small percentage did eventually marry.

Young Marcellin was illiterate. A visiting priest suggested that he might want to train for the priesthood. His family had no money to send him to the seminary but they were determined to do so and before long he entered the seminary. Marcellin found the studies difficult but he persisted. He was finally ordained as a priest in 1816.

Marcellin’s first and, as it turned out, only appointment as assistant priest was to the remote rural community of La Valla, not far from his home. Marcellin’s personal charism and sincerity led him to be known and respected by his parishioners.

During that time, public education in the rural areas of France had collapsed due to constant upheavals in the country. There were virtually no schools and this led Marcellin to start the Marist Brothers.

The decision was inspired by a life changing event for Marcellin and which is crucial for the foundation of the Marist Brothers: he was called to administer the last rites to a dying seventeen-year-old boy by the name of Jean-Baptiste Montagne.

What affected Marcellin so profoundly about this encounter was that Montagne had never learned the most basic elements of the Christian faith. To Marcellin, the death of Montagne at only 17 and in almost complete ignorance of the Christian faith was a tragedy. Saddened, he decided he must act to ensure others did not suffer the same fate.

During his priestly studies Marcellin and a group of like-minded seminarians had discussed forming a religious congregation under the patronage of Mary and with a Marian spirit. They desired to build community in a family-like way and thought of calling themselves Marists. This dream was realised in the church of Our Lady of Fourviéres above Lyons, the day after their ordination. The group of young men together dedicated themselves to Mary as “The Society of Mary.”

On 2 January 1817, just months after his ordination, Marcellin invited two young men, 23-year-old Jean Marie Granjon and 14-1/2-year-old Jean Baptist Audras to become the first Marist Brothers in La Valla, so as to provide young people with the Christian education he had long desired. Other young men joined them soon after, among them Gabriel Rivat who, as Brother François, would later become the Brothers’ first Superior General.

These first Brothers were captured by Marcellin’s distinctive spirituality and his way of living the Gospel: a way that was simple and unpretentious, warm and community-based, close to young people and with a heart touched by Jesus. Gathered around Marcellin, the early Brothers learnt to become men with strong minds and gentle hearts. Marcellin emphasized for the Brothers meekness and humbleness, and put their consecration under Mary as an exemplar of fidelity to Christ.

Known originally as the Little Brothers of Mary (Petits Frères de Marie), the Church approved their Congregation in 1863 (23 years after the death of their founder) giving them the official title, Fratres Maristae a Scholis (FMS) or Marist Brothers of the Schools. Their motto is Ad Jesum per Mariam (To Jesus through Mary).

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.

These Brothers transform the lives of thousands of young people through education and spirituality programs, challenging young people to live to their fullest potential and make a difference in the world around them.