On Sunday, John Paul II will proclaim Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers, a saint. The Marist Brothers have chosen the slogan, "A Heart Without Borders" to capture the essence of their founder's charism; he was a man who responded with a vocation to the cries of suffering of poor youth and the marginalized.
    Marcellin was born in France, in Hameau du Rosey, near Marlhes, in the diocese of Lyon, in 1789, at the beginning of the French Revolution. He entered the seminary at sixteen years of age, and was in the company of figures like Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars; Jean-Claude Colin; and Jean-Claude Courveille, with whom he shared the desire to found a "society of Mary." He was ordained a priest in 1816 and, by the following year, he had founded a religious family with its first disciples, two youths of 15 and 23 years of age.
    A very peculiar event in Marcellin's life led him to found an institution dedicated to the education of youth. He met Montagne, a 17 year old who was dying without ever having heard about God. Having requested Marcellin's presence, he spoke to the dying young man for two hours about God the Father, about his love and about life after death," Brother Luis Serra said; Serra is director of publications on Champagnat.
    "The youth died shortly after Marcellin left. From then on the young priest understood that the moment had arrived to implement the project he had been thinking about for some time so that thousands of youths would not be abandoned to that state of human and spiritual poverty," the Marist Brother said.
    This is, precisely, how the "adventure" of the Little Brothers of Mary ( the name preferred by Marcellin) began. The first co-founders were youths from rural areas, the majority between 15 and 18 years of age, more accustomed to hard work than to intellectual reflection and the education of youth.
    Champagnat imparted educational and apostolic enthusiasm to the co-founders, turning them into great educators. When he died at 51 years of age, his congregation had 290 Brothers, 48 schools and 7,000 students. Today the Marist Brothers number about 5,000 in the world. They continue Marcellin's work of transforming the life of youths, especially of the youngest, by giving them an integral education, both at the human as well as the religious level, founded on personal love for each one of them. The Marists are in 72 countries of the five continents.
    There are 949 Brothers in Spain, 534 in Brazil, 340 in France, 332 in Australia, 284 in Mexico, 245 in the United States, 200 in Canada and 170 in Argentina. Marcellin Champagnat was declared Venerable (the first stage of the process of beatification) in 1920 by Benedict XV and Blessed in 1955 by Pius XII.

10:05am 14/4/99 / Zenit
Canonisation page on Australian Marist Brothers' website


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