Marists are men and women who strive to live the Gospel the way Mary lived it. We are scattered to the four corners of the world but united in one heart and one mind under the patronage of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We gather into religious congregations and lay movements; The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, the Marist Sisters, the Marist Brothers, the Priests and Brothers of the Society of Mary and many lay groups of Marist inspiration.
Marists respond to the desire of Mary, expressed in these words: “I supported the Church as it came to birth; I shall do so again at the end of time.” We wish to carry out this “work of Mary”, making our own her love and concern for the Church. We desire to share in her zeal for Jesus’ mission. And we try to do this in the style of Mary, “hidden and unknown”, an unobtrusive presence in the Church.
The Society of Mary began in 1816 in the French city of Lyon in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Society and the Church were both in turmoil. There were great needs in the church. The faith of the people, both young and old was neglected. On the wider horizon, new mission areas were opening in the Pacific and the Church desperately needed labourers for this harvest.
Inspired by the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Marists looked to the early Church as they faced the pressing challenges of their age. There they saw a small group of disciples, filled with love, moved by great prayer, eager to spread the Gospel, and inspired by the presence of the Mother of Jesus.
At the ancient shrine of Our Lady of Fourviere, on a hill overlooking the city of Lyons, twelve newly-ordained priests and seminarians pledged themselves to found a religious congregation bearing the name of Mary. As soon as they received permission from their bishops these first Marists joined together into communities.
Since then we have spread out into many lands. There are over a thousand professed members grouped into several Provinces, Mission Districts and Regions and many thousands more lay Marists. New Zealand Marists work in both islands, in Australia, in Oceania, Rome and in Mission Districts in Latin America and the Philippines. We even have an occasional presence in Antarctica!
The communities of the Society of Mary, grouped in each geographical unit, look to the leadership of our Superior General and his council who reside in Rome. They are responsible for the worldwide unity of the Society.