The original dream for the Marist Family consisted of one religious congregation and a lay branch. However, that dream was unrealizable. Today, when people speak of the “Marist Family”, they are referring to four separate religious congregations and the lay branch.
Besides the Marist Fathers and Brothers (SM), the members of the Marist Family are:
Marist Brothers (FMS)
The Marist Brothers began in 1817 as a response to the spiritual, educational and physical needs of the young and the poor. The founder, a young French Marist Father, St. Marcellin Champagnat, catered for these needs by training young men to be teachers.
“We do our best to remain faithful to the Spirit of the Risen Saviour, who gives us, as he did the first Christians, the grace to live “one in mind and heart”. (Marist Brothers Constitutions)
Marist Sisters (SM)
The Marist Sisters branch of the Marist project was due to the insight and zeal of Jeanne Marie Chavoin, from the town of Coutouvre in the South-East of France. With two others she began the first community of Marist Sisters in September 1823.
“Our congregation is characterised by the desire to make the mystery of Mary in the church the daily inspiration of its life and action, and not by any special work nor by the promotion of any particular form of Marian devotion….” (Marist Sisters Constitutions)
Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM)
The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary were founded by Francoise Perroton a French lay women who traveled to the island of Wallis in Oceania not long after the first Marist Fathers arrived there. She lived as a member of the Third Order of Mary and ministered especially to the women and children of the island. In 1931 the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary were approved as a religious congregation.
“We wish to respond to the calls of today with the daring and zeal of the pioneers. We want to keep alive this daring – simple, joyful and prudent – based solely on the love and power of God in order to announce the Gospel in its force and integrity, learning to adapt ourselves to different cultures and conditions of life. ” (Missionary Sisters Constitutions)
The original vision for the Marist project saw ‘the whole world Marist’, through the lives of countless lay people taking on the spirit of Mary and sending ripples of Gospel vigour throughout the secular world. Lay involvement in the Marist Family first took the shape of a Third Order of the Society of Mary under Saint Julian Eymard. It has since developed into a wide variety of Marist Lay groups, formal and informal in different parts of the world.
Marist lay groups take on a variety of structures and works to express the Marist spirit. Some groups pray and study together, others work in a Marist ministry, and still others pray in communion with other Marists for the whole Marist family and their mission.