About Society of Mary, Marists in the USA, Roman Catholic Priests, Brothers, and Laity
The Work of Mary Still Calls

Notre Dame de Fourviere, Lyon, FranceOn July 23, 1816, twelve young men in Lyons, France – on the day after their ordination to the priesthood – walked up the steep hill of Fourviere to the shrine of Our Lady and pledged their lives to the service of others in the spirit of Mary. This was no light matter.

On the heels of the French Revolution, priests and religious were imprisoned, tortured, and often killed for their fidelity to their faith. Yet each young man felt personally "called" by the Church's Mother and first disciple to live a life of compassion and mercy and to proclaim boldly the Good News of Jesus Christ during that tumultuous time.

Their inspiration was to receive and bear the mind and heart of Mary: steadfast in faith, gentle in exercising power, comforting and reconciling, prophetic and always pointing to the saving grace of her Son.

In everything they do – and more, in the unassuming attitude
they present – they reflect "the face of Mary" to the Church
and the world.

Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Society of Mary
Jean-Claude Colin, founder
of the Society of Mary

The Marists came to the United States in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, to serve the needs of French-speaking minorities in Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and California. In the U.S., Marists were part of an immigrant Church struggling to survive and prosper in a sometimes anti-Catholic land.

They opened a school in Georgia where Catholics were a very small minority. They undertook missions to the rural poor, especially the Catholic minorities in West Virginia and Georgia; and some Marists focused their energies to support poor working people struggling to secure just wages and safe working conditions.

Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Society of Mary
Fr. Joe Fleury is a Chaplain Colonel
in the U.S. Army.

While the world today is vastly different from that of the first Marists, it is in many ways similar. Priests and religious, including some Marists, have been tortured or killed for their beliefs and Gospel witness in various places around the globe. Cultural and moral relativism tend to dominate American society. Religion is either ignored or sharply criticized in the media.

New challenges confront us today: the widening gap between rich and poor; a young adult population seeking faith in a world alien to their religious aspirations; a multicultural world linked more closely than ever by communication and resources yet far apart in understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.

Society of Mary USA Province 150 Anniversary Celebration

Read more about our history and
our 150th Anniversary Celebration>

Read "The Marist World Prepares To Commemorate 200 Years Of Its Founding Pledge"




All Marists are
engaged in the
"work of Mary"
as understood
by founder
Jean-Claude Colin

  A Marist Timeline

In 1809, Jean-Claude Courveille mades a pilgrimage to the shrine of the "Black Virgin" at the cathedral of LePuy in France. There he experienced healing while praying before the statue of the Virgin, anointing his eyes with oil from the vigil lamps. He came to believe that the Blessed Mother wanted to help the Church through a society consecrated to her and bearing her name. In 1816, Courveille along with 11 seminarians, including Jean-Claude Colin, upon ordination dedicate themselves to the founding of the Society of Mary.

Colin's 1822 draft of an initial constitution for the Society of Mary composed of priests, brothers, sisters, and the laity receives preliminary approval from Rome. The Marists' first missionary work is in the remote areas of the Diocese of Belley in southeast France.

In 1836, Pope Gregory XVI gives canonical approval to the formation of a religious institute of Marist Fathers with simple vows under a superior general as well as separately governed communities of Marist Brothers and Marist Sisters. Colin is appointed Superior General of the Society of Mary.

The laity branch of Marists, the Third Order of Mary, is canonically instituted in 1850

The Marists arrive in the United States in 1863 to serve the needs of the immigrant Church.

In 1873, The Holy See approved the constitutions of the Society of Mary.


the Society of Mary
continues to reflect
"the face of Mary"
to the Church and
to the world.