(SM, Official Catholic Directory #0760); formally known as the Society of Mary (Societas Marie); founded in Bordeaux, France, in 1817 by William Joseph chaminade (1761–1850), a priest who had initiated a distinctive sodality movement in post-revolutionary France (1800). He and Adéle Trenquelléon co-founded the Daughters of Mary (Marianist Sisters) in 1816. In 1817, after several sodalists had made private vows under Chaminade, seven of them professed vows on Sept. 5,1818. Marianist schools were then opened in Bordeaux and Agen. The former, with its faculty of sodalists, enjoyed an excellent reputation while the latter was intended as a primary school for new children, but people of the better classes contrived to obtain certificates of indigence permitting their boys to enter the school. The French government recognized the work of the Marianists by subsidizing the school that opened at St. Remy, although it was not a state school. In 1834 a school was opened at Colmar. Two years later, the Brothers of Christian Doctrine merged with the Marianists, with the result that the College of Sant Hippolyte, and schools in Ribeauville and Ammschwir were opened in Alsace.
When Chaminade retired as superior general in 1848 the Marianists were conducting schools in France and Switzerland, and before his death (1850) they had spread to the United States. By 1963 there were more than 3,300 Marianists in ten provinces centered in France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and Japan. The European branch of the society maintains missions in Tunis, the Central African Republic, Congo Republic (French), Spanish Morocco, Togo, Argentina, and Chile, and schools in Belgium, Hungary, and Germany. The Americans serve missions in Peru, Kenya, Nigeria, Nyasaland, Lebanon, Korea, and supply religious to Canada, Japan, and various missions of European provinces. The apostolic mission of the Marianist is characterized by his total consecration to Mary, while the society is designed on an egalitarian spirit among priests, teaching brothers, and working brothers.
Symbolic of the spirit to dispel anticlericalism, the Marianists have never worn a religious habit, but rather the rule prescribed a simple black suit. The Marianists received papal approval on Aug. 11, 1865; but final approbation of the constitutions was finally granted by Leo XIII only on July 24, 1891. To the usual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Marianists add the vow of stability. As an outward sign of this fourth vow, which is consecration to Mary, they wear a gold ring on their right hand. Marianists, including priests, teaching and working brothers, are governed by a superior general, who with his council, appoints all superiors. The vast majority of the Marianists are teaching brothers.
The American Experience. The foundation period opened in July 1849. Francis X. weninger, S.J., an Austrian Jesuit familiar with the Marianist schools in Alsace, wrote to the superior general in Bordeaux on behalf of two pastors of German-speaking parishes in need of Marianists to staff the parish schools in Cincinnati. Leo Meyer, an Alsatian Marianist priest eager to be missioned to the United States, arrived in Cincinnati in July; the following December four brothers arrived to take charge of the parish schools and assist Meyer, who had purchased property in Dayton upon which was built St. Mary's Institute. With accommodations for postulants and novices, Nazareth, as the Marianist center in Dayton was called, was adjacent to St. Mary's (later University of Dayton) and housed a normal school. With the establishment of the U.S. province in 1855 Nazareth was the provincialate as well as the motherhouse where Marianists would make their annual retreat and receive their teaching assignments.
Bishop (after 1850, Archbishop) John B. Purcell of Cincinnati, who had witnessed ethnic rivalry between German and Irish-Americans, promoted German national parishes such as Holy Trinity in 1834 and St. Mary's in the Over-the-Rhine area of Cincinnati in 1840. During the 1850s the Marianists staffed these schools and taught catechism in German illustrative of the prevailing principle: the German language preserves the faith of the people.
The French-born bishop of Galveston, Jean-Marie Odin, made two visits to Bordeaux searching for Marianists to staff a school. In 1852 three brothers arrived in San Antonio, where they met Br. Edel from Cincinnati, to form a community that laid the foundation of St. Mary's College, today called St. Mary's University. Another French bishop, Amadeus Rappe of Cleveland, successfully sought brothers to teach at St. Patrick's, the school of the Irish parish. Rappe was a self-styled Americanizer who alienated both the German-American and Irish-American communities. The Marianists, who had made
a significant impact upon the school, remained at St. Patrick's for several years.
Expansion into Pittsburgh, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, and New Orleans occurred principally in response to Redemptorist pastors of German-speaking parishes. In 1880 the Marianists opened a school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as a result of a request from the community for missions in the Hawaiian Islands in 1882 the brothers opened schools in Honolulu, Wailuki (1883), and Hilo (1885). In 1884 the brothers responded to a call from a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and opened a school in Stockton, California. The provincial associated with this national expansion was Fr. John N. Reinbolt; by the end of his 20-year administration in 1886 there were 40 Marianist houses with 350 brothers and priests.
Modernization and Professionalization. In 1897, at the request of the German-American pastor, the Marianists opened their first high school at SS. Peter and Paul parish, which represented their entrance into the St. Louis area where they established several high schools. The Marianists opened Spalding Academy in Peoria, Illinois, named after John Lancaster Spalding, the bishop who invited them into the diocese. Many of their parish schools evolved into high schools such as St. Michael's in Chicago.
With the growth of the society by more than 50 schools and over 500 members—from New York to California, Texas to Manitoba—a western province centered in St. Louis was established in 1908. The Hawaii and California houses remained the Cincinnati Province.
While provincials were priests, the provincial inspectors of schools, a position first created in 1869, were brothers. Brother John Waldron was inspector of the St. Louis province and a dominant presence in the early years of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA). Inspectors were associated with the society's adaptation to the development of diocesan school systems, particularly its central Catholic high school movement. During this period the University of Dayton and St. Mary's College in San Antonio achieved modernization and professionalization. Illustrative of the significance of education in their provinces of the United States, American brothers have dominated the position of assistant superior general in charge of instruction from the late 19th through the 20th century. The marianist sisters opened their first house in the United States in 1949; their continuous growth led to the establishment of a U.S. province in 1969.
In 1946 the general chapter elected its first American superior general, Sylvester P. Jurgens, former provincial of the western province. In 1948 he announced the creation of the Pacific province with houses in California and Hawaii. By this time there was a trend to focus almost entirely upon secondary education; the Pacific province was in the vanguard of that movement. Also during the early phase of modernization the sodality movement was revitalized in tandem with the renewed devotion to the founder, William Joseph Chaminade. Father William Feree, even before he became Provincial of the Cincinnati Province (1968–1993) was a dynamic leader in the sodality and the retrieval of the founder's charism. During the late 1940s the Marianist accepted their first African-American candidate and by 1960 there were a few Black Brothers of Mary. The continuous growth of the Marianists during 1950s led to the foundation of the New York Province in 1961, which included St. John's Boys' Home in Brooklyn, Chaminade High School in Mineola (Long Island), other high schools, and Colegio San Jose, Rio Padres, Puerto Rico. In 1961 there were about 1,500 Marianists in the North American provinces, which represented nearly a 100 percent growth in 25 years.
Vatican II and After. The period, 1960 to 1995, followed a pattern etched into the post-Vatican II trends of renewal and reform: the composition of a new constitution based upon the principles of collegiality, subsidiary, personal responsibility, and a scripturally based spirituality. Since the early 1990s brothers were allowed to be appointed provincials. Some of the missions that were founded between the 1930s and the 1950s in Latin America and Africa are flourishing today.
The general decline in traditional vocations has entailed removing brothers and priests from several schools in each of the provinces. However, the rise of Marianists' lay communities dedicated to a way of life infused with the Society's spirituality as a positive force on the horizon. Subsidiarity was severely tested in a conflict between the Marianists of the community of Chaminade High School in Mineola eager to maintain traditional structures in the school and community life (which they perceived as in accord with the best in Marianist life) and the New York Provincial Council with its commitment to reform or renewal in post-Vatican II and based upon contemporary anthropological and ecclesiological understandings of personal development, authority, and subsidiarity. The dispute, which originated in 1968, was resolved by the Vatican Congregation of Religious in 1976; Mineola became the independent Meribah Province with self-determination to pursue its own identity within Marianist traditions.
Lay Marianists, sisters, brothers, and priests form the Family of Mary in the 21st century. In 2001 the Cincinnati, New York, St. Louis and Pacific Provinces merged to form one Province. The Meribah Province, with two high schools and a retreat center, retains its separate status.
Bibliography: j. e. garvin, Centenary Book of the Society of Mary (Dayton, Ohio; 1917). c. j. kauffman, Education and Transformation: Marianist Ministries in America since 1849 (New York 1994). e. paulin and j. a. becker. New Ways: The History of the Brothers of Mary (Marianists) in Hawaii, 1883–1954 (Milwaukee 1959). j. w. schmitz, The Society of Mary in Texas (San Antonio 1951). g. j. schnepp, Province of St. Louis 1908–1983, The First Seventy-Five Years (St. Louis 1985).
[c. j. kauffman]