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Society of Mary: Marianists.

The Society of Mary (Marianists) originated in France. This article traces the development of the religious community by looking at the lives of three founding members, the cultural and political influences that accompanied them, and their eventual focus on educational ministry.


"We are missionaries. Ours is a great work, a magnificent work; if it is universal, it is because we are missionaries of Mary, who has said to us, 'Do whatever He tells you!' Yes, we are all missionaries" (W. Chaminade, personal communication, August 24, 1839).

The Society of Mary's ministry in education needs to be placed in the context of the Marianist family. The Marianist family is comprised of men and women who are religious brothers, sisters, and priests and vowed and non-vowed members of Marianist lay communities. The implementation of the Marianist mission is the result of the collaboration among all members of the Marianist family. To understand why members of the Society of Mary (male vowed religious) are involved in education, it is helpful to know the founding story and the vision of William Joseph Chaminade, Marie Therese de Lamourous, and Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon.

William Joseph Chaminade knew there was great diversity among members of the Catholic Church. Members of the Catholic Church who chose to serve God and His Church in a variety of ways came from many walks of life and many socioeconomic levels. It was this diversity of people who were to be founders and members of the Marianist family. In developing the Marianist family, Chaminade did not work alone. He maintained an ongoing collaboration with Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon and Marie Therese de Lamourous to carry out the mission he knew he had to accomplish. Chaminade firmly believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the model for all he did, and the woman who influenced all that he would accomplish. The inspiration and enthusiasm of the three founders have motivated and inspired members of the Marianist family from its foundation in the early 19th century to the present time.


Marie Therese de Lamourous was born in Barsac, France, on November 1, 1754. It was in Bordeaux, during the French Revolution, that she came into contact with Chaminade who became her spiritual director and collaborator for 40 years. She worked with Chaminade during the French Revolution to meet the spiritual needs of Catholics by coordinating secret prayer group meetings and celebrations of the Eucharist.

In 1800, Marie Therese helped Chaminade form the sodality for men at the Madeleine Chapel in Bordeaux, and she was instrumental in founding the women's Sodality of the Immaculate Conception the following year. It was Chaminade who introduced her to Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon. Marie Therese assisted Adele as she worked to found the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, a religious order of women dedicated to implementing the Marianist charism.

During the 1790s, in discernment with Chaminade, Marie Therese determined that her ministry would be working with women who desired to leave the life of prostitution and create a new life for themselves. She founded the Maison de la Misericorde (House of Mercy) for this purpose. At one time, over 300 women lived at the Maison. It was at the Maison that women could rekindle their spiritual life and develop the necessary skills to live independently and make positive contributions to the Catholic Church and to society (Stefanelli, 1998).

While still involved in ministry, the last 10 years of Marie Therese's life were spent suffering from various illnesses. She died on September 14, 1836. Her biographer has described her as an efficient organizer and administrator who worked with a firm hand. Yet, it was commonly known that a loving heart complemented her organizational skills. The Catholic Church recognized her practice of heroic virtue and declared her Venerable on December 21, 1989 (Stefanelli, 1998).

A woman who worked closely with Marie Therese and Chaminade was Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon. Adele was born on June 10, 1789. She, like Chaminade and Marie Therese, suffered through the negative developments of the French Revolution. In 1804, Adele and a friend founded an association of women committed to deepening their Catholic faith and servicing the needs of the people with whom they came into contact. Chaminade and Adele crossed paths for the first time in 1808 and began an ongoing dialogue that continued until Adele's death in 1828.

Through conversations with Chaminade, Adele determined that her association of women would become part of the women's Sodality of the Immaculate Conception that had been founded by Chaminade and Marie Therese in 1801. In 1816, Adele and a number of women from the association she initiated, founded a religious order of women, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, the Marianist Sisters. Chaminade, Adele, and the local bishop determined the community life and ministry of this new religious order of women (Stefanelli, 1999).

Adele was never in good health and the last years of her life were physically difficult for her. She died on January 10, 1828. Adele was declared Venerable by the Catholic Church in 1986.

Adele's legacy to the Marianist family lives on in the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. The sisters carry on Adele's dream of blending community and ministry with the Blessed Virgin Mary as their model. Currently, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate minister in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and Latin America.

The Daughters of Mary Immaculate began their ministry in the United States in 1949 at a school in Somerset, Texas. Currently in the United States, the sisters are active in university teaching, campus ministry, catechetical ministry, parish ministry, and the Marianist Environmental and Education Center program in Dayton, Ohio.

The third founder of the Marianist family is William Joseph Chaminade. He was born on April 8, 1760, in Periqueux, France, the second youngest of Blaise and Catherine's 15 children.

As a teenager, Chaminade went to the seminary in Mussidan, France, to study for the priesthood. While at the seminary, he not only studied but at the age of 15 he began to teach his fellow seminarians. After his ordination in 1785, Chaminade remained at the seminary with his two brothers who were also priests. While at the seminary, he led a quiet life as teacher and business manager. Through prayer and discussion, Chaminade determined that his life would be lived assisting Mary in her mission of bringing Jesus to the world. In 1789, Chaminade's life took a dramatic turn and he began a life which he never envisioned (Stefanelli, 2000).

Chaminade did not leave France during the French Revolution. He decided to stay in France to be of service to members of the Catholic community. While involved in a necessarily clandestine ministry, many of his days were fraught with anxiety as he narrowly escaped capture by the authorities.

Though fearful, he never let his fear inhibit his ministry. He spent many hours a day serving his brothers and sisters--presiding at the Eucharist, administering the sacraments, and giving spiritual direction. His determination, the support of others, and remembering the commitment he made as a teenager to the Blessed Virgin Mary to promulgate her mission gave him the courage to continue his ministry during some of the bloodiest days of the French Revolution.

After the worst of the French Revolution was over, Chaminade was able to conduct his ministry openly. Yet, the times were not stable and his life was to again change. In 1797, Chaminade was forced into exile. He chose to join with other French exiles in Saragossa, Spain, settling near the shrine dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar. It was during his 3 years in Saragossa that he was inspired by the Blessed Virgin Mary to found the Society of Mary. In 1800, Chaminade was able to return to France, settle in Bordeaux, and begin to actualize the dream he experienced in Saragossa (Gizard, 2000).

On December 8, 1800, shortly after beginning his ministry in Bordeaux, a group of men came to Chaminade expressing their desire to dedicate their lives to prayer and the re-Christianization of France. This group of men, the nucleus for Chaminade's first sodality, made their public act of consecration on February 2, 1801. Within a year, 100 men were members of the sodality having their meetings at the Chapel of the Madeleine. On March 25, 1801, Marie Therese and Chaminade founded the woman's sodality. By 1809, over 1,000 men and women were active members of the sodalities (Stefanelli, 2000).


The sodalities Chaminade founded were unique for their time in that men and women, people of various ages, people from all social classes, and people involved in a variety of occupations were invited to become members. It was through the universality of membership in the sodalities that Chaminade's dream of re-Christianizing France would be accomplished. Chaminade believed for Christianity to be revitalized, people from various backgrounds were needed to accomplish the mission of bringing Christ to the world. The Gospel message had to be delivered and accepted by all classes, by men and women, and by people of various occupations. Chaminade saw that limiting ministry to one group of people would never accomplish the mission given to him at Saragossa.

The sodalities founded by Chaminade would not continue their growth without difficulty. In 1809, the sodality was suppressed by the government because sodalities were determined to be subversive organizations to the status quo. Chaminade's sodalities did not die; they conducted their activities in secret until 1814.

For members of the Society of Mary, October 2, 1817 is a day of celebration. It was on this day that Jean Baptiste Lalanne and several other men met with Chaminade to discuss the possibility of forming a group of vowed men who through prayer and living in community would be actively involved in the ministry of the Church. After the initial meeting, several additional men--clerics, manual workers, and merchants--joined with Lalanne and Chaminade to found the Society of Mary (Marianists). On December 8, 1817, several men made private vows and on September 5, 1818, seven men made public vows as members of the Society of Mary.

October 2, Foundation Day for the Society of Mary, is the feast of the Guardian Angels. Remembering the Guardian Angels has been important to members of the Society of Mary. Guardian Angels were seen as guardians of the students in Marianist schools. To help students behave appropriately, members of the Society of Mary were encouraged to "invoke the Guardian Angels of their pupils at the beginning of class and surveillance periods" (Lebon, 1946, p. 174). Hopefully, the angels would guarantee that students behaved in a proper manner so as to be receptive to the classroom instruction of the brothers and priests.

The Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary were not founded for a specific ministry within the Church. Chaminade was open to the possibilities that would come before him and his disciples. It soon became evident that education would become the primary ministry of the Society of Mary. Chaminade wanted each of the members of the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate
 to show by their good example, that Christianity is not an obsolete
 institution and that the Gospel is as practicable today as it was
 1800 years ago. [The men and women religious] would wage battle
 against a thousand and one forms of propaganda, precisely in the
 field of schools, by opening classes at every level and of every
 kind, and particularly classes for the common people, who are the
 most numerous and the most abandoned. (W. Chaminade, personal
 communication, 1838)

Chaminade was filled with joy in 1839, when he received a Decree of Praise for the Society of Mary from Pope Gregory XVI. In his letter to the Marianist retreat masters dated May 24, 1839, Chaminade wrote,
 What I regard as a really distinctive trait of our two orders ... [is
 that] we embrace the religious life in the name and for the glory
 of the Blessed Virgin Mary ... in order to make her known, loved and
 served. We have been called by Mary herself [to accomplish her
 mission]. (W. Chaminade, personal communication, May 24, 1839)

Members of the Society of Mary always proclaim, "We are missionaries of Mary!"

The last years of Chaminade's life were personally difficult for him. He and a small number of members of the Society of Mary did not agree on the development of the order. Through dialogue and the intervention of the Vatican, Chaminade was replaced as Superior General in 1845 by Father George Caillet, S.M.

Chaminade died on January 22, 1850. By the time of Chaminade's death there were 500 members of the Society of Mary; almost all were involved in the ministry of education in 62 schools.

In 1973, the Congregation for the Causes of Sainthood determined that Chaminade had lived a life of heroic virtue. Pope John Paul II beatified William Joseph Chaminade on September 3, 2000.

Today the Marianist family is comprised of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (, the Society of Mary (, Marianist Lay Communities (http://www. and and the Alliance Mariale. Members of the Marianist family live and minister in 30 countries on five continents.

 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
 there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are
 different workings but the same God who produces all of them in
 everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is
 given for some benefit. (I Cor. 12:4-6)

Since the foundation of the Marianists, the goal has been to share our charism with the people with whom we come into contact as we work together to build communities of faith.

Each religious congregation takes pride in developing and sharing its charism. For the members of the Society of Mary, the shared charism is comprised of five components.


Mary responded "Yes" in faith to the promptings of the Angel Gabriel and gave birth to Jesus. So, too, Marianists are involved in the mission of making Jesus come to life for every age and in every place where they minister.


Members of the Society of Mary follow Mary, the mother of Jesus. Since the foundation of the Society of Mary, members of the order were not only to be father but mother; kind, nurturing, and caring for the people with whom they came into contact. While not abandoning the qualities of Mary as mother, beginning in the 1970s, members of the Society of Mary began to share their developing vision of Mary as the first disciple of Jesus. She is the faith-filled disciple who is the model for all Christians. Mary's strength, determination, and vigor exemplify the often repeated Marianist phrase Fortes in Fide (strong in faith). Marianists and their collaborators minister to bringing the message of Jesus to life in the current age.

Faith development is a lifelong process. Chaminade believed that members of the Society of Mary minister to and for others from the "cradle to the grave" always deepening, always enlivening faith in Jesus. When talking of education, Chaminade meant
 all the means by which religion may be inculcated in the mind and
 heart of men are included, thereby to train him, from the tender
 years of childhood to the most advanced age, in the fervent and
 faithful practice of a true Christian life. (Chaminade, 1839/1967,

A person's faith development begins in the home, is nurtured in educational institutions of the Society of Mary, and is deepened and enlivened throughout life by membership as either a vowed religious or member of a Marianist lay community or as an active member of the person's church community.

Emil Neubert, S.M., (1954) stated
 Education is a participation in the work of Mary. She is the great
 teacher of mankind. Her mission has been, and still is, to give
 birth to Jesus Christ and to rear Him. ... In calling us to the
 work of education, Mary has constituted us Her collaborators in
 this mission. Our pupils are Her children more than ours ... and it
 is Her name that we ought to try to form Jesus in them. (pp. 20-21)

To educate as many people as possible about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Marianists founded the Marian Library located at the University of Dayton in 1943. The Marian Library is the largest collection in the world concentrating on its specialty. In 1975, the International Marian Research Institute (IMRI) was created and offers academic programs for the Licentiate of Sacred Theology (STL) and Doctorate of Sacred Theology (STD;


A person's faith in God does not grow and develop in isolation. Vowed Marianists and other members of the Family of Mary need the support and interaction with other people to deepen and enrich the living out of faith. The same is true in education. Learning does not take place in a vacuum. Knowledge and understanding matures through the interaction that takes place among students and between teachers and students.

A person's religious faith is not lived only within the Church community. A person's faith is brought into the culture in which the person lives. It is the ongoing dialogue between faith and culture that will guarantee a deepening of faith and the enriching of culture.

From its foundation, Marianist community has been inclusive; members of the Marianist family invite all to become members. The Society of Mary has always believed in the equality of brothers and priests within the order. The equality of brothers and priests was a radical concept when first presented to the Vatican in the 19th century. This equality of professed members of the Society of Mary is a unique witness to the larger Church community.


Marianists are always involved in the mission of the Church of forming persons and communities of faith so as to proclaim the Gospel and proactively create a just society.

At the time of perpetual profession, members of the Society of Mary take a fourth vow, the vow of stability. Through proclaiming this vow, members of the Society of Mary witness a lifelong commitment to Mary and her mission.


Members of the Society of Mary need to always be open to new ways of living out their charism. In using the world bellum, Chaminade uses a militaristic interpretation of this phrase. In classical and Late Latin the word bellum means a challenge, not in the sense of defiance but in that of a difficult undertaking which has in it elements of struggle.

The France in which the Marianists originated was a country that seemed to continually experience new governments, new societal structures, and new involvements on the international scene. It was because of the times that Chaminade wrote that "a new fulcrum must be found for the modern world" (W. Chaminade, personal communication, 1839). It was the members of the Society of Mary who were to be this new fulcrum.


Through commitment to the charism, ongoing dialogue, and reading the signs of the times, members of the Society of Mary were soon involved in the ministry of education. The decision to move into education was clearly stated by Chaminade in 1822. To the pastor of a parish, Chaminade wrote,
 Christian schools directed according to the method adopted by the
 Institute of Mary and conducted by its religious destined for this
 good work are a powerful means of reforming people. The children
 there generally make such rapid progress and become so docile and
 Christian that they carry the good odor of virtue and religion into
 their respective families. The children become, as it were,
 apostles to their parents, and their apostolate always produces
 such happy fruit. That is what makes me call the schools a means of
 reforming people. (Chaminade, 1976, p. 397)

It was through primary education to the numerous members of the lower socioeconomic class that a rapid multiplication of Christians would take place. Though initially beginning with the lower socioeconomic class, members of the Society of Mary did not ignore the education of students from other socioeconomic strata. Through the ministry of education, members of the order were to be missionaries to their students; students were to be missionaries to their family members and friends; and family members and friends were to be missionaries to all the people with whom they would come into contact.

Just as Chaminade encouraged his followers to be the fulcrum for the new world that they were to help create, the students in schools conducted by the Society of Mary were to be prepared to be leaders in the Church and in society.
 It is the student body that determines the character of an
 establishment. In other words an establishment must respond to the
 needs and conditions of its students, since every educational
 institution is established for the students it admits. It assumes
 the tasks of training these students, not in an aimless manner, but
 with a view to their future career and to the situations in which
 circumstances place them. (Marianists, 1899, p. 68)

Members of the Society became involved in their first school in 1818. A year later, members of the Society of Mary opened their first boarding school in Bordeaux. By 1845, members of the Society of Mary ministered in 32 primary schools, four secondary schools, and two trade schools.

Education for members of the Society of Mary is to form students spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically, in other words, formation of the whole person. From their earliest history, members of the Society of Mary have proclaimed that "We teach in order to educate." The Manual of Christian Pedagogy for the Use of the Brothers of Mary clearly stated that, "Education, in a general sense, is the art of cultivating, developing, strengthening, and perfecting the physical, intellectual, and moral faculties, which, in the child, constitute human dignity" (Marianists, 1899, p. 7).
 The Kingdom of God is made for the whole man, and man is
 intellectual as well as moral and should be instructed and refined
 in mind as well as be virtuous of heart. We are full men ...
 developing the intellect indeed, but not forgetting the heart.
 (T.F.E., 1908, p. 80)

In teaching the young, members of the Society of Mary were to use a multi-faceted methodology. Professed members were encouraged to "make your instruction interesting, teach with a will and with pleasure, teach so you are well understood, do not be fussy, keep cool! Do not do the thinking for the pupils; do not overtax your pupils" (Marianists, 1899, pp. 29-30). To encourage students, Marianist educators were to consistently and publicly honor their students for their accomplishments.

The definition of teaching for Marianist educators is all encompassing. Every word, action, and gesture are considered to be components of teaching. Brother Schmitt (1951) wrote that
 it is not necessary for the teacher to moralize continually. This
 only leads to boredom and defeats the purpose of teaching. On the
 other hand, it should not be omitted entirely. All branches of
 study have something in them that point to God. (p. 45)

In 1823, in addition to primary schools, members of the Society of Mary opened a normal school (a school to educate teachers) in St. Remy, France. By 1830, members of the order were involved in three normal schools in France. What a great ministry to fulfill the order's mission by training future teachers in Marianist pedagogy so they would be instrumental in accomplishing the mission of multiplying Christians. However, because of the political instability in France, the members of the Society of Mary were forced to close their normal schools in 1830.

On February 7, 1834, Chaminade wrote to Father Jean Joseph Cheveaux, S.M., reminding him that schools were "to introduce and to spread everywhere the spirit of faith and religion, and thereby to multiply Christians." This can be done by remembering that
 (1) real missionaries never rely solely on themselves but place
 their confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary, (2) the salvation of
 the souls of our pupils should be the ends we propose to ourselves
 in our actions and prayers, and (3) a teacher cannot succeed with a
 pupil whose esteem and friendship he has not gained. (W. Chaminade,
 personal communication, February 7, 1834)

The ministry of the brothers and priests was well received by the students and their parents. Members of the Society of Mary continued to open schools in France and in neighboring countries. The success in ministry began to reach Church ministers from the United States who came to Europe in search of religious orders to serve in their educational institutions.

In 1839, Father Charles Richard-Bole from Jefferson County, Arkansas, wrote the General Council of the Society of Mary asking for members of the order to come to minister in his state. Chaminade and his council did not think the time was right for such a move. In 1848, members of the General Council discussed the possibility of going to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The answer was no. In early 1849, a letter from Bishop Timon of Buffalo, New York, asked for members of the Society of Mary to serve in his diocese. Once again, it was determined that the time was not yet right to begin ministry in the United States.

In 1848, while members of the General Council were discussing expanding the ministry of the Society of Mary beyond Europe, Father Leo Meyer, S.M., was contacted about the possibility of ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Holy Trinity Parish School. Father Meyer indicated to his superiors that he was eager to embark on this new venture. The General Council agreed with Father Meyer. Father George Caillet, S.M., the superior general, wrote to Father Meyer on April 28, 1849,
 the time designated by Divine Providence seems to have arrived, my
 dear son. Everything leads us to believe that the Lord is calling
 the Society of Mary to spread through the new world the benefits of
 Christian education and the knowledge and love of Mary. (G.
 Caillet, personal communication, April 28, 1849)

Father Leo Meyer, S.M., and Brother Charles Schultz, S.M., set sail for the United States on May 28, 1849. Their boat landed in New York on July 4, 1849, and on July 16 they arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because of the cholera epidemic then taking its toll on the inhabitants of Cincinnati, Meyer and Schultz traveled to Dayton, Ohio, where they worked at Emmanuel Parish and cared for people suffering the effects of the epidemic. (Members of the Society of Mary still serve the needs of the parish community today).

At the end of July 1849, Father Meyer met John Stuart who owned 125 acres of land close to Emmanuel Parish. Stuart was eager to sell his property and return to France. He informed Father Meyer that he would sell him the property for $12,000. Though he had no money, Father Meyer agreed to buy the property. His first payment was a medal of Saint Joseph which was accepted by Stuart. Father Meyer was able to pay off the debt in 1861. The newly acquired property was called Nazareth.

On August 10, 1849, Father Meyer wrote to Father Cheveaux, "I can hardly describe the vast field that stretches before the Society of Mary, first of all in Cincinnati" (L. Meyer, personal communication, August 10, 1849). Based upon the comments and enthusiasm of Meyer, additional members of the order were eager to serve in the United States. Marianist Brothers John Edel, John Stinzi, Maximin Zehler, and Damien Litz were soon journeying to Dayton. On July 1, 1850, Saint Mary's School opened its doors for 15 day students. Through the years, the small foundation of Saint Mary's would evolve into the University of Dayton.

The course offerings of Saint Mary's included, "reading, writing, English, French, German, grammar, arithmetic, practical geometry, bookkeeping, history, geography, drawing, vocal music, botany, agriculture, and horticulture" (Graves, 1997, p. 52). The inclusion of drawing and vocal music is reflective of the Marianist belief that students be offered a comprehensive, integrated curriculum.

Music has always been an important component of the curriculum of schools administered by the Society of Mary. Chaminade wrote to Father Lalanne, "I have a great liking for music and I desire that vocal and instrumental music be taught to those pupils who have the required talent" (Chaminade, 1976, p. 168).

Members of the Society of Mary and their collaborators in education have always looked for new methods to adapt curricular and co-curricular offerings to meet the needs of students. The Marianist Constitutions of 1937 stated,
 The great principles of education and teaching do not vary; but the
 application of these principles and the methods must necessarily be
 adapted to the needs and requirements of human society. To admit
 absolute invariability in the form and matter of instruction would
 be to limit to a very short time the services and even the
 existence of an Institute, which devotes itself to education.
 (Marianists, 1937, [section]277)

MINISTRY IN THE U.S. (1852-1950)

In early 1852, Marianist brothers Nicholas Koenig, Jean-Baptiste Laignaux, and Xavier Mauclerc left France and sailed for the United States. Their destination was San Antonio, Texas. Upon their arrival in Texas, Mauclerc would spend time in Galveston studying for his ordination. Laignaux and Koenig were joined in San Antonio by Brother John Edel, S.M., from Dayton, Ohio. The three brothers, with Edel as principal, opened a school in San Antonio on March 25, 1852.

From this humble beginning, a new school named Saint Mary's Institute was opened on August 26, 1853. The student population of the school reflected the makeup of the city of San Antonio. The students attending St. Mary's Institute were French, German, Anglo, and Mexican American. St. Mary's Institute changed its name to Central Catholic High School in 1932. The high school is still located in the heart of San Antonio.

For members of the Society of Mary and their collaborators, faith development and intellectual development occur within community. Tammy Schrader, a teacher at Central Catholic, has stated,
 What I see boys get from being here is a sense of brotherhood. By
 that, I mean a sense of caring. I watch how they treat each other,
 how much they love each other and stay connected through the alumni
 network long after they graduate. If they didn't have a quality
 experience, this deep sense of family spirit, I don't think they'd
 continue to seek each other out. (T. Schrader, personal
 communication, n.d.)

In 1894, 25 acres at Woodlawn Hills in San Antonio was purchased so as to expand the student population of Saint Mary's Institute. The new establishment opened its doors on September 4, 1894, and was named Saint Louis College. In 1895, the state gave approval for Saint Louis College to give degrees.

In 1923, Saint Louis College had its name changed to Saint Mary's College. Saint Mary's College developed into Saint Mary's University and issued its first Bachelor's degree in 1927. Saint Mary's University is the largest and oldest Catholic university in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1855, the General Council of the Society of Mary decided that the United States would become its own province, the American province, and Father Meyer would be the first provincial. Father Meyer served as provincial until his return to France in 1862.

In 1856, Brother John Baptist Stinzi, S.M., and a small contingent of Marianists traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to oversee the boys' department of Saint Patrick's Grade School. Saint Patrick's was the first English-speaking school served by the Society of Mary in the United States and the beginning of the order's ongoing ministry in Cleveland.

Membership in the Society of Mary continued to increase, resulting in the ongoing expansion of the congregation's educational ministry in the United States. By 1862, there were 65 vowed members of the Society of Mary in the United States in ministry in 12 educational establishments. By 1875, members of the order were in ministry in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Columbus in Ohio, New Orleans, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Rochester in New York. By 1940, Puerto Rico, China, and Peru had vowed Marianists from the United States involved in schools.

Marianists in the United States received a call to minister in Hawaii. In 1883, five members of the order traveled to Saint Louis School in Honolulu and three Marianists journeyed to Saint Anthony's Parish on the island of Maui. Marianist presence continues in these school communities.

To continue Catholic and Marianist education beyond high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Marianists opened Saint Louis Junior College in 1955. The success of Saint Louis College enabled the college to become Chaminade University in 1977. Chaminade University is the only Catholic university on the island of Oahu.

In 1884, Marianists journeyed to Saint Mary's College in Stockton, California. The following year, members of the order began ministry at the grade school of Saint Joseph Parish. The 1880s in Stockton were a time of racial tension in the city. It was not uncommon that Chinese students from Saint Joseph's would be taunted on their way home from school. To help their Chinese students, brothers would walk their students home so as to protect them from taunts and harassment.

The Society of Mary envisioned an ongoing and expanding influence on Catholic education in the United States. As one of the brothers wrote,
 I hope to see the day when the Brothers of Mary will be the most
 prominent figures in the Educational Association of America, and I
 believe our Blessed Protectress, Mary Immaculate, has destined the
 Little Society of Mary to be the "Big Noise" when education is in
 question in our beloved country. (T.G.S., 1910, p. 211)

Members of the Society of Mary joined the festivities at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Brother John Kim, S.M., and other Marianists aided in the development of the five exhibits at the Catholic Education Exhibit at the fair. The exhibits stressed the ethnic diversity and cosmopolitan nature of Catholic schools (Kauffman, 1999).

Committed to the educational mission of the Catholic Church, Marianists needed to reach an audience larger than a particular school or a particular diocese. Brother John Waldron, S.M., born in Cleveland, Ohio, was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic Education Association in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. Waldron was on the Executive Board and was the only non-ordained member of the association's advisory council. Later, he and Bishop Francis Howard were instrumental in the creation of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). Brother Eugene Poulin, S.M., would become the president of the secondary school division section and vice president of the NCEA board in the 1940s (Kauffman, 1999).

Members of the Society of Mary remain involved in the National Catholic Educational Association to the present day. Marianist schools are part of the network of schools belonging to the NCEA. At the present time, Brother William Campbell, S.M., is the associate executive director of the Department of Elementary Education and Brother Bernard Stratman, S.M., is the executive director of the Seminary Department.

During the first years of the 20th century, the number of vowed members in the United States continued to increase allowing for the expansion of the order's educational ministry in the United States. In 1905, there were 42 Marianist communities comprised of over 400 religious with ministry in the United States, Japan, Mexico, Hawaii, and Tripoli.

Members of the Society of Mary in the United States were committed to the educational needs of their students. At the beginning of the 20th century, an increasing number of students were attending high school after completing their primary education. So as to adapt to the times and serve more students, members of the Society of Mary concentrated on getting their college degrees to better serve students on the high school level. As the needs of the Catholic Church changed, Marianists continued to follow the dictum of Blessed Chaminade to "follow the signs of the times."

In 1910, Chaminade College Preparatory School was founded in St. Louis, Missouri. This was the first school named to honor the founder of the Marianists. By 1920, the Society of Mary served in 17 high schools throughout the United States in addition to numerous grade schools. By 1940, 29 high schools were sponsored by the Society of Mary (Kauffman, 1999).

The work of the Society of Mary in secondary education did not go unnoticed. Burns (1912) stated, "the Brothers engaged in elementary teaching have, nevertheless, felt the strong tide of popular sentiment for the establishment of Catholic secondary schools. The Community has been a leading part in the high school movement" (pp. 116-117).

One of the first high schools staffed by the Society of Mary was Cathedral Latin School in Cleveland, Ohio, founded in 1916 by Bishop John Farrelly. The school was originally staffed by diocesan priests and Marianists. In 1922, because of some difficulties at the school, the bishop of Cleveland established a review of the school to be done by two visiting bishops.

One of the findings of the visiting bishops, presented in their "Record of the Consulters," indicated that "it took thirteen priests to do the work of six Brothers" (as cited in Kauffman, 1999, p. 184). After the report, the Marianists became responsible for administering the diocesan school. Bishop Anthony Pilla, a student at Cathedral Latin School and retired bishop of Cleveland, remarked of his experience at Cathedral Latin, "There were quality people at Latin who pushed you to your best, built character and encouraged teamwork" (as cited in Kauffman, 1999, p. 184).

Saint Joseph School in Cleveland, Ohio, opened its doors in 1950 with 125 freshmen. By the early 1970s, the school had over 2,000 male students. In 1990, the school merged with a neighboring women's school and became Villa Angela-Saint Joseph's High School. Jim Sukys, the president of the school is a graduate of Saint Joseph's High School. He says of his experience at Saint Joseph's, "I could go to any of the Brothers or priests without hesitation. I never felt embarrassed or uncertain, no matter what the subject was. As a teenager, to have that kind of person to talk to is important. It is huge" (J. Sukys, personal communication, n.d.).


The sodality, begun by Chaminade in 1800, was an important student organization in Marianist schools in the United States. The brothers and priests always provided opportunities for students to join the sodality established at their school. It was during the activities of the sodality that students were encouraged to deepen their love for Mary, develop their faith life with other young men, and serve the larger community.

Beginning in the 1970s, schools administered by Marianists began offering a program based on the sodality named Living in the Faith Experience (LIFE; Each summer, young men and women attend programs in California, Ohio, or Texas to develop their faith life and build community. Returning to their schools, the students have regular times for faith sharing and community building. LIFE students are always inviting other students from their school communities to join them for this ongoing renewal. In 2007, the National LIFE Office in Philadelphia began publication of a newsletter appropriately entitled The Fulcrum.

Community in a Marianist sponsored school is not to be limited to life within the school community. Members of Marianist school communities are very much concerned with social outreach and creating a just society. Marianists were actively involved in Catholic Action during the 1930s. Father William Kieffer, S.M., wrote in his 1939 circular that Marianist educators are concerned with "awakening in their [pupils] a certain sense of social responsibility. They must be taught that each one owes his neighbor aid in becoming better" (W. Kieffer, personal communication, 1939). This continues today with students and adults involved in community service, social justice seminars, and mission trips to countries outside the United States.

Members of the Society of Mary always desired to spread the order's charism to as large an audience as possible within the United States. The order established printing houses in Dayton, Ohio, and St. Louis, Missouri, to publish Marianist produced materials and periodicals. Marianist publications included The Apostle of Mary (1905-1943), The Marianist (19441963), Mary Today (1964-1965), Marianist Educator (1949-1964), Maryhurst Messenger (1925-1939; 1947-1962) and Marianist Working Brother (1945-1965).

Articles in the above mentioned publications dealt with developing one's faith life with Mary as our model, presenting ideas on adapting a school's curriculum to best meet the needs of the students, and preparing students for life after high school. Articles in the publications are reflective of the order's desire to continually update the curricular and co-curricular offerings at its schools. The following articles are reflective of the content of the publications: "Modern Theories for Physics and Chemistry"; "Musical Tastes"; "Organizing a Variety Show"; "High School Math in the Age of Sputnik"; and "Suggestions on Commercial Education." Each is informative, challenging, and, at times, amusing.

The journals published by the Marianist presses ceased publication in the mid-1960s, a time of change and transition in the Catholic Church and within the Society of Mary. The commitment to spreading the Gospel and the Marianist charism beyond the order's educational foundations did not stop with the closing of the order's publishing houses. Today, the work continues in new ways through the work of the North American Center for Marianist Studies (NACMS; NACMS not only shares through the printed word and audio visuals but through courses offered on-line through the website sponsored by the Virtual Learning Center for Faith Formation (

During the 1950s and early 1960s, membership in the Society grew to a level never dreamed of in the order's early history. This increase in numbers was not to continue, and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, membership in the Society of Mary began to decrease and the age of members to increase.

When there were a large number of brothers and priests involved at a school, members of the order did not always consciously develop the order's charism with the lay men and women who ministered with them. As Paul Kelley, S.M., wrote, "I think this is another one of those areas where we have let things ride in hope of a type of osmosis, if nothing else" (1966, p. 17). Marianists thought that somehow non-Marianists in ministry at the schools would grasp the Marianist educational charism.

Marianists were administrators of the school, and members of the order had regular meetings at the community residence that resulted in decisions that were made with little outside collaboration. As one of the teachers in a Marianist school once remarked, "What did the Brothers decide last night?" (as cited in Kelley, 1966, p. 17).

Slowly, members of the order realized that osmosis was not going to work in the 1990s and beyond, if it had worked in earlier times. Marianists needed to define for themselves and for their co-workers, "What is a Marianist school?" Members of the order admitted that this could not be done by Marianists alone, but had to be done collaboratively with their lay colleagues.

During the General Chapter of 1991, delegates asked that an articulation of the elements of the Marianist educational charism be undertaken. An international committee was established to follow through on the request of the General Chapter. After much prayer and discussion, the members of the committee determined the core elements of a Marianist learning community.

In 1996, the Characteristics of Marianist Education was published. The hope is that these core elements "will serve as a source of energy and grace for all of us involved in Marianist education, as we seize the task of faithfully living out our common identity for the sake of the reign of God" (Marianists, 1996, p. 4). The Characteristics of Marianist Education indicate the five components of a distinctively Marianist education. The characteristics that follow are true to the ideals of the founders and the lived experience of the members of the Society of Mary. A school in the Marianist tradition strives to

* Educate for formation in faith: (a) Bear witness with a personal and committed faith that touches the heart and (b) Mary is presented as the faithful disciple

* Educate in family spirit: Cultivate interpersonal relationships characterized by openness, respect, integrity, and dialogue

* Provide an integral, quality education: A curricular and co-curricular program that promotes the education of the whole person

* Educate for service, justice, and peace: Educate for solidarity, justice, and peace

* Educate for adaptation and change: Prepare students to become positive agents in shaping the future

It is the characteristics of Marianist education that are the framework for the spiritual, curricular, and co-curricular programs in a Marianist school. After determining the characteristics, the next question Marianists asked each other was, "How are the Characteristics of Marianist Education going to be implemented in our schools?"

The Society of Mary joined with other religious congregations in discussing how to best carry on and enrich a congregation's charism in their ministries. Members of the Society of Mary and school administrators determined that a program of sponsorship would be the best way to create programs to develop faith communities, educate students, and achieve their shared mission.

Sponsorship is an ongoing and developing relationship that requires the trust and commitment of the Society of Mary and members of each school community. The Society of Mary and the school community each have responsibilities to guarantee the achievement of the goals of sponsorship to the benefit of all of the school's constituents. Fundamental to Marianist sponsorship are the formation programs for administrators and teachers through the Marianist Education Consortium.

The Marianist Education Consortium consists of the secondary schools sponsored by the Society of Mary throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Ireland. A collaborative relationship has been established among the school communities with the Society of Mary. The Society of Mary provides yearly workshops, speakers, and programs for members of the school communities.

So as to provide for the needs of a particular school, each school community has a local Marianist Mission Effectiveness Team comprised of administrators, teachers, and staff. Members of this team are in close communication with members of the Marianist provincial administration. A number of sponsored schools have created an administrative position that works with school personnel to integrate the school's mission into all aspects of school life.

As part of the Mission Effectiveness program, each sponsored school is visited once a year by either a member of the Province Office of Education or a Mission Effectiveness Visiting Team. Visiting teams are comprised of administrators and teachers from sponsored schools who visit a school to discuss how it is developing the Characteristics of Marianist Education (Marianists, 1996). The dialogue among school personnel has helped both the school being visited and the visitors. The visitors are able to take ideas to their school communities.

In 2006, the board of trustees of each sponsored school developed a Mission Integration Committee. The purpose of the committee is to help each board continually understand the mission of the school and the mission's influence on board decisions.

A board of trustees program entitled "Sharing Our Mission" was begun through dialogue among members of the Society of Mary, school administrators, and school board members. In February 2007, presidents/principals, board presidents, and chairpersons of the board's Mission Integration com mittee were invited to come to Dallas, Texas, for discussion and planning (

The sponsorship program has created a deepening and ongoing discussion between members of the Society of Mary and their collaborators. It is through ongoing dialogue in the sponsorship program that the Marianist charism of education will continue to influence the lives of future generations.

The development of sponsorship, the growth of Marianist lay communities at sponsored schools, and ongoing collaboration with their colleagues take Marianists back to their beginnings in the United States. The words of Leo Meyer, S.M., in July 1850 to his brothers inspire the Society of Mary today, "We form the nucleus of our dear society in America. Who knows what God has in view for this humble beginning, provided we correspond to His designs for us" (L. Meyer, personal communication, 1850).


Burns, J. (1912). The growth and development of the Catholic school system in the United States. New York: Benziger Brothers.

Chaminade, W. J. (1967). Constitutions of the Society of Mary (H. Kramer, Trans.). Honolulu, HI: Marianist Province of the Pacific. (Original work published 1839)

Chaminade, W. J. (1976). Letters of Father Chaminade (T. Poitres, Trans.). Dayton, OH: Marianist Resources Commission.

Gizard, V. (2000). Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianist family. Dayton, OH: North American Center for Marianist Studies.

Graves, J. (1997). Father Leo Meyer's 13 years at Nazareth. Dayton, OH: North American Center for Marianist Studies.

Kauffman, C. (1999). Education and transformation: Marianist ministries in America since 1948. New York: Crossroad.

Kelley, P. (1966). The Marianist lay teacher. Marianist Educator, 17(1), 1-61.

Lebon, H. (1946). The Marianist year: Feast day meditations in the Society of Mary (P. Resch, Trans.). St. Meinrad, IN: St. Meinrad's Abbey.

Marianists. (1899). Manual of Christian pedagogy for the use of the Brothers of Mary. Dayton, OH: Nazareth Press.

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Neubert, E. (1954). Synthesis of our characteristic traits. Dayton, OH: Marianist Archives, University of Dayton.

Schmitt, W. (1951). Marianist teaching and education. Marianist Educator, 4(1), 44-48.

Stefanelli, J. (1998). Mlle de Lamourous: A resource on Marie Therese Charlotte de Lamourous.

Dayton, OH: North American Center for Marianist Studies.

Stefanelli, J. (1999). Adele: Aristocrat for the poor. Dayton, OH: North American Center for Marianist Studies.

Stefanelli, J. (2000). Chaminade: Pragmatist with a vision. Dayton, OH: North American Center for Marianist Studies.

T.F.E. (1908). Intellect and faith. Apostle of Mary, 4(2), 76-88.

T.G.S. (1910). Report on the CEA. Apostle of Mary, 6(4), 21-27.


Marianist Province of the United States

John R. Habjan, S.M., is the Assistant Director of Education for the Marianist Province of the United States. Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Brother John R. Habjan, S.M., Marianist Province of the United States, 4425 West Pine Blvd, Saint Louis, MO 63108.
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Author:Habjan, John
Publication:Catholic Education
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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