The authors, Brothers Julian Casey, John Luttrell, Neville Solomon and Peter Rodney, share a broad experience of the Marist story.
Marist Provincial Peter Carroll said he saw this new history as significant for the Marist sesquicentenary in Australia – an opportunity to “celebrate achievements, apologise for our failures and give thanks to God and all those who have supported us in our life and mission”.
In April 1872, four Marist Brothers began the first Marist school in Australia in St Patrick’s Parish, Church Hill, Sydney. Irish Catholics of The Rocks called them the ‘French Brothers’ because their headquarters were in France and their leader was an outgoing Frenchman, Br Ludovic Laboureyras.
Australian recruits quickly joined them and by the 1960s there were more than 600 Marist Brothers in five states of Australia. As with other teaching congregations they were in great demand when there was minimal government funding for schools.
From 1970 this momentum of growth and achievement of the first century weakened sharply. Recruitment to the congregation dwindled and communities aged. One recent leader wrote that ‘brothers were now living out their vows and consecration in a totally different sub-culture, mostly engaged in some form of ministry, but with few directly participating in schools’. Add to this the revelations and deep impact of the recent Royal Commission.
While the congregation has declined in numbers, the Marist mission continues in new forms.
The spirituality of St Marcellin Champagnat has been embraced by lay colleagues, friends and students.
The Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat has grown quickly to 900 members, mostly lay Marists. The original charism continues in the 56 schools of Marist Schools Australia, in youth services provided by Marist180, and in the international outreach of Australian Marist Solidarity.
The sesquicentenary celebrations also included the commissioning by St Patrick’s Parish Church Hill of a bust of the first Br Ludovic. It was unveiled in the parish courtyard on April 8 to commemorate the opening of the first Marist school on the same day 150 years ago.
Sub Tuum Praesidium: Marist Brothers in Australia 1872 – 2022 is available from The Hermitage, Mittagong, www.thehermitage.org.au/product-category/marist-resources/