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History of the Marist Brothers

The proprietors of Marcellin College are the Marist Brothers. They named this school after their founder, Saint Marcellin Champagnat.

Joseph Benedict Marcellin Champagnat was born on 20 May, 1789, the year that the French Revolution began, in a farming hamlet in the south-west of France. He experienced little success in formal education until he was a more mature student at the seminary in Lyons. And it was here that the idea of establishing an order of teaching brothers to be responsible for the schooling of young people originated.

Ordained at the age of 27, Father Champagnat was assigned to the parish of La Valla, where the first volunteers to be teaching brothers joined him. A school master trained them in teaching methods and they then began giving instruction in the villages around their parish.

The brothers’ community at La Valla outgrew its small house near Marcellin’s presbytery and the men were directed by their founder in the building of the famous Hermitage, designed to accommodate 150 brothers. Champagnat was released from parish work to focus on his burgeoning order of teachers. When the Marist Fathers were entrusted with the new missions in Oceania in 1836, Marcellin selected some of his brothers to go as well.

Marcellin was not deterred by hard labour nor by the criticism of certain Church officials nor by the rebuffs of the French Government, from which he twice unsuccessfully sought official recognition for his order. However, in the late 1830s his health began to deteriorate. He died on 6 June, 1840, convinced that his Little Brothers of Mary would flourish after his death.

His legacy today is over 5,000 brothers in 74 countries and a countless number of lay people who uphold his ideals of selfless service in humility and simplicity inspired by the Mother of God, of commitment to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, of active involvement in the lives of young people, of open-hearted family spirit and of love of one’s work.

Marcellin Champagnat was canonised on 18 April 1999.

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