|Named after||Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Formation||January 2, 1817|
|Founder||St. Marcellin Champagnat|
|Founded at||Lyon, France|
|Type||Lay Religious Congregation of Pontifical Right (for Men)|
|Purpose||To educate young neglected people|
|Headquarters||Piazzale Marcellino Champagnat 2, C.P. 10250, 00144 Roma, Italy|
|3,046 members |
|Carlos Alberto Huidobro, F.M.S.|
|Ernesto Barba Sánchez, F.M.S.|
Ad Jesum per Mariam
To Jesus through Mary"
|Little Brothers of Mary|
The Marist Brothers of the Schools, commonly known as simply the Marist Brothers, is an international community of Catholic religious institute of brothers. In 1817, St. Marcellin Champagnat, a Marist priest from France, founded the Marist Brothers with the goal of educating young people, especially those most neglected. While most of the brothers minister in school settings, others work with young people in parishes, religious retreats and spiritual accompaniment, at-risk youth settings, young adult ministry and overseas missions.
St. Marcellin Champagnat decided to start an institute of consecrated brothers in the Marist tradition, building schools for the underprivileged where they might learn to become "Good Christians and Good people". The decision was inspired by an event, when as a parish priest he was called to administer the last rites to a dying boy named Jean Baptiste Montagne. Trying to lead the boy through his last moments in prayer, Marcellin was struck by the fact that the young man had no gauge of Christianity or prayer. From that moment, Champagnat decided to start training brothers to meet the faith needs of the young people of France.
On January 2, 1817, the 23-year-old Jean Marie Granjon and Jean Baptist Audras, fourteen and a half years of age, moved into the small house that Fr. Champagnat had rented for them in La Valla and which became the first Marist Brothers community. Their day consisted of prayer, work and study; their manual work was to make nails, an activity that helped to pay expenses. Marcellin taught them reading and writing, and he looked after their formation as religious educators. Other young men joined the undertaking, among them Gabriel Rivat who, as Brother François, would later become the Brothers' first Superior General.
As a Marist priest, Champagnat had a particular affinity for the Blessed Virgin Mary, so upon conception of the idea of Marist Brothers, Champagnat chose to call his brothers Petits Frères de Marie (Little Brothers of Mary), emphasising the meekness and humbleness he wished them to pursue, and seeking their consecration to her as an exemplar of fidelity to Christ. In 1863, 23 years after Champagnat's death, the Marist Brothers institute received the approbation of the Holy See, whereupon the order received the title of Fratres Maristae a Scholis (Marist Brothers of the Schools), hence the post-nominal letters of FMS. 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. This harkens back to a Marist legend about Champagnat.
A favourite maxim of St. Marcellin was that he wanted "to make Jesus known and loved" throughout the world, and to demonstrate he would run a needle through an apple (representing the earth) as an example of how he wanted the message of "Ad Jesum per Mariam" or "To Jesus through Mary" to cross the globe. The end of the needle came out in what would be the equivalent of the Pacific in relation to France where he inserted the needle, and so thus the Marist Brothers have a well-recognised presence throughout the Pacific, but particularly in Australia and New Zealand.
The Marist Brothers are involved in educational work throughout the world and now conduct primary, secondary and higher education schools, academies, industrial schools, orphanages and retreat houses in 79 countries on five continents: Europe, Africa, The Americas, Asia, and Oceania.
From their roots in Lyons, the Brothers today have spread across the globe. Over their 200-year history, Marist Brothers have had ministries in over 100 different nations. Presently there are approximately 3,500 brothers in 79 countries on 5 continents, working directly and sharing their mission and spirituality with more than 40,000 lay Marists, and together educating close to 500,000 children and young people.
The international Marist brotherhood is led by a Superior General, currently Br. Ernesto Sánchez, F.M.S. Together with the Vicar General and a General Council, it is his job to guide the growth and administration of the various ministries of the Brothers across the globe, from the General House in Rome. The Marist Brothers are divided into two main administrative units, either "provinces" or "districts", depending on size. Provinces are led by a Provincial, whose job it is to oversee and make deliberations on behalf of the Superior General for the Province he leads. There are presently 26 provinces and 5 districts. Depending on the extent of ministries within a certain country, there may be multiple provinces within the one country. For example, Brazil has three provinces and two districts and Australia has two, as does Mexico.
The Marist Brothers' first international missionary mandate was to the Pacific, where they accompanied Marist Fathers in evangelizing and education ministries. Today, Marist brothers own and run many technical colleges in the Central and Western Pacific, educating young men in nations ravaged by war (such as the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea).
Marist Brothers arrived in Australia in 1872, where they opened their first school at The Rocks, New South Wales. There are now over 300 Brothers working with young people in schools as teachers and administrators, in retreat houses and camps for young people and in other areas of ministry. Australian Marist Brothers also serve in welfare ministries working with young adults in outreach programs in indigenous Australian communities and also in missions in nearby Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and East Timor. Marists from Australia also serve communities in Cambodia and India. The two provinces are Melbourne (States of Victoria, WA, South Australia and Northern Territory) and Sydney (Queensland, New South Wales, ACT and Cambodia).
Oceania is divided into the following four administrative units:
In the Oceania region, Prime Ministers of Australia, [(Sir Julius Chan | Papua New Guinea)], Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were all educated by schools run Marist Brothers. Deputy Prime Minister (2003-2006) of New Zealand Gerard Brownlee (Gerry Brownlee) was educated by the Marist Fathers in Christchurch.
Europe is the heartland of the Marist project, centring particularly on the region of France which Marcellin Champagnat called home. Many schools, universities, youth ministries and social works are done by the Marists in this area. The administration of European Marists is done by:
Celtic Football Club was formed at a meeting in St. Mary's church hall in Glasgow, by Marist Brother Walfrid on November 6, 1887, with the purpose stated in the official club records as "being to alleviate poverty in Glasgow's East End parishes". The charity established by Brother Walfrid was named 'The Poor Children's Dinner Table'.
The North American provinces are particularly based around secondary and tertiary education. Many American celebrities have been educated in American Marist schools, including Sean "P Diddy" Combs, David Hasselhoff, Ray Romano and many others. The North American provinces are:
In Latin America, "Maristas" are also very active in the following countries: Chile, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and other countries as well. The largest number of brothers currently are natives from Spain and France. The Marist presence in these countries is divided into the following provinces:
Marist brothers are active in a number of African countries, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Marist brothers have been martyred in Africa on many occasions for educating and protecting refugee people. The administrative groupings of Marists in Africa are:
The Marist Brothers released a statement to survivors and victims of abuse. It was issued by the 22nd General Chapter in 2017, and reads: “Abuse is the very antithesis of our Marist values, and undermines the very purpose of our Institute. Any abuse of children is a betrayal of the noble ideals of our founder, St Marcellin Champagnat.”
From June 2014, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a royal commission of inquiry initiated in 2013 by the Australian Government and supported by all of its state governments, began an investigation into the response of Marist Brothers to allegations of child sexual abuse in schools in the ACT, NSW and Queensland. A number of expert witnesses, former students, former teachers, former principals, former and current Marist officials and clergy, and one of the clergy at the centre of the allegations gave evidence or made statements before the Royal Commission In 2017, the Commission published its final report which documents significant evidence of child abuse at the hand of members of the Marist order and evidence that the response of the order systematically exacerbated the problems relating to abuse.
Compensation payments to date have totaled approximately $AUD2.7 million.
Particularly concerning was the finding that “many alleged perpetrators remained in the same positions with access to children for years and sometimes decades after initial and successive allegations of child sexual abuse were raised.”
In many cases the Commission heard of “the minimisation of allegations of child sexual abuse.”
One of the key systematic issues that came to light was that it was typical for Brothers to move through many communities and ministries in their lifetime. In the 1960s and 1970s there were typically up to 100 transfers each year.
Dr Marie Keenan, a specialist witness in public policy and therapeutic responses to crime testified that “the problem of clericalism appears to be rooted in a seminary system that introduces seminarians into a closed, secretive clerical world and into a hierarchy that is answerable only to itself.”
In March 2015, a former Marist Brother was arrested over a number of sex offences allegedly committed at St Joseph's College in Hunters Hill and St Gregory's College in Campbelltown in the 1980s.
In September 2016, during a Royal Commission hearing, the Brother Provincial of the Marist Brothers in Australia, Brother Peter Carroll, formally apologised to the family of Andrew Nash, whose suicide in 1974 at the age of 13 almost certainly resulted from sexual abuse by three of the order's predatory brothers – Dominic, Patrick and Romuald – and acknowledged that they had many more victims than the dozens who had come forward so far.
In 2008, Brother Chute was convicted of 19 child sex offences against six of his former students during the period 1985 to 1989. 48 claims have been made of abuse that occurred from 1959 to 1990 at 6 different schools. 40 students at Marist College Canberra laid complaints during the period 1976 to 1990. The Marist Brothers did not report any allegations of child sexual abuse to the police in the period 1962 to 1993.
On 2 August 1996, Brother Gregory Sutton pleaded guilty to a total of 67 child sex offences in relation to 15 students at schools in New South Wales. He taught at 6 Marist schools between 1970 and 1986 and there were complaints about the abuse of 27 children made against him during this period.
In September 2018, Australian Marist Brother Gerard McNamara, 80, was sentenced to nine months in prison for molesting five boys who were aspiring athletes at St Paul's Catholic College, where served as principal, in Traralgon between 1970 and 1975. He also molested one of these boy 30 times. In May 2020, McNamara, who was nicknamed "The Rat," began serving his second stint in prison after pleading guilty to charges of indecent assault and one count of common assault of more than 15 male students between 1970 and 1975. This time, he received a sentence of 35 months in prison, with 28 months suspended. Since his first sex abuse conviction in June 2006, which resulted in a suspended prison sentence, McNamara has received three additional convictions and sentences on sex abuse charges, but was able to once again receive a suspended prison sentence following another conviction in December 2016.
Marist Brother Claudius Pettit, real name Malcolm Thomas Petit, was convicted of child-sex abuse of a boy at a Wellington school in the 1990s.
In June 2020, Kevin Healy (Brother Gordon), a former Marist brother, was convicted of four charges of indecency (from 1976 to 1977) between a man and boys aged 12 and 13, and one of indecency with a girl aged under 12.
John Louis Stevenson (known as Brother Bernard) and Brother Andrew Cody of the Hato Paora Māori Boys school in Feilding were convicted of sexual offenses and jailed.
In 2018, the Otago Daily Times noted that nine Marist brothers had been convicted of crimes against boys. These were Br. Charles Afeaki (Invercargill), Br. Kenneth Camden (Christchurch), Br. Sione Losalu (Napier), Br. Bryan McKay (Hamilton), Br. Andrew Cody (Feilding), Br. Bernard Stevenson (Fielding), Br. Bede Hampton (Masterton), Br. Patrick Bignell (Hutt Valley) and Br. Claudius Pettit (Lower Hutt).
Br. Aiden Benefield (Napier), was convicted of possessing child pornography in 2007.
By March 2016, a total of 29 complaints were made against six former teachers from three Marist schools in Barcelona, with three of these teachers confessing to committing the alleged sex abuse. By February 2019, the number of complaints against Barcelona Marist school teachers had increased to 43, with 12 teachers now named as suspected sex abusers. By this point, however, two Barcelona Marist Brothers were criminally charged, with one being convicted and another still awaiting trial. In March 2019, the trial began for the other charged Marist Brother, Joaquín Benítez. The former gym teacher, who declared on court that the institution knew about the abuses but took no action so he «felt protected by the Marists», was finally sentenced to 21 years and 9 months in prison for sexually abusing four children (other 13 accusations had expired). The Marist Brothers already paid 120,000 euros to each of the four proven victims.
Cases of abuses were found out in Marist Brothers facilities. Diocesan priests Cristián Precht Bañados and Miguel Ortega, another priest of the Archdiocese of Santiago, were accused of molesting boys while visiting the Brothers' facilities, including those who came to them for confession. Chilean police have investigated claims of sex abuse at many of the group's facilities. Precht had previously been suspended from ministry between 2012 and 2017 after being convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well. On 12 September 2018, Precht was laicized. In 2012, Ortega, was also found guilty of sexually molesting boys. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison, died in 2015. Precht had been incardinated in the Archdiocese of Santiago, and gained national recognition in the 1980s when he served as head of the Church's Vicariate of Solidarity human rights group that challenged ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet to end the practice of torture in Chile.
In 2017, the Chilean Marist Brothers revealed that at least 14 minors were abused by Marist Brother Abel Perez from the 1970s until 2000 at the Instituto Alonso de Ercilla and the Marcelino Champagnat schools in Chile. Perez confessed the alleged abuse to his superiors in 2010, and was then transferred to Peru.
On October 31, 1996, four Brothers were killed by refugees and martyred in a mission in Nyamirangwe (Bugobe), Zaire. These brothers were all Spanish: Br. Fernando de la Fuente de la Fuente, Br. Miguel Ángel Isla Lucio, Br. Servando Mayor García, and Br. Julio Rodríguez Jorge.
On October 28, 2007, the Vatican beatified 498 saints who died as martyrs in the Spanish Civil War. Among the 498 were 47 Marist Brothers from the dioceses of Burgos, Cartagena, Girona, Lleida, Palencia, Pamplona and Tudela, San Sebastián, Solsona, Terrassa, Teruel and Albarracin, Urgell and Vic. The Beatification Mass was presided over by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.
On December 8, 2018, Br. Henri Vergès (1930-1994), from France, was among the nineteen beatified in Oran, Algeria, who were martyred in Algeria.
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