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Jean-Claude Colin, Founder (1790-1875).
The Founder of the Marist Fathers, Fr. Jean-Claude Colin was born on August 7, 1790 in Saint-Bonnet-le-Troncy, a town in the Beaujolais region of France. He was reared in the atmosphere of the French revolution and during a time of persecution of the church. His father had been imprisoned for his faith, and sometimes had to go into hiding, taking great risks by sheltering priests. Young Jean Claude was only two when both his mother and father died. As he grew up the desire for the priesthood became strong in his mind, and later in the seminary along with some others he made plans for a religious congregation bearing the name of Mary.
On July 23, 1816, Jean-Claude, with other young priests and seminarians, pledged to establish a Society of Mary, in the chapel of Our Lady of Fourviere, Lyons. In the same year he was ordained and joined a country parish in Cerdon as curate. He did not seem a likely candidate to found a worldwide religious congregation, as he was shy and retiring. Yet there he began his work which eventually led him to attracting hundreds of men to his side and sending some of them across the world to die even, for the ideals he set before them. This young curate was busy putting onto paper plans for the future Society of Mary.
In 1824 Father Jean-Claude Colin with his brother Pierre and two other priests were allowed by the bishop to form themselves into a little band and to preach missions in the diocese (Marist Fathers). At the same time a number of young women started with him the Sisters of the Congregation of Mary (Marist Sisters). The first beginnings of the third Order of Mary for lay people (Marist Laity) had also taken shape. Yet another group, under Saint Marcellin Champagnat, (Marist Brothers) was being formed for teaching. The original seed sown in the group of seminarians was growing into a tree with various branches.
In 1830 Fr. Colin was elected "superior" of the group of Marist aspirants as they endeavored to attain approval for their group from Rome.
In January 1836 the Pope confided the missions of Western Oceania in the South Pacific to this new group of Marist Fathers and the following April Rome approved the Society of Mary, Marist Fathers. The following September the first twenty Marist Fathers made their profession and Fr. Colin was elected as the First Superior General. On Christmas Eve 1836, the first group of Marist missionaries left for the missions in Western Oceania in the South Pacific.
That little band of pioneers was the first of 15 waves of missionaries that Fr. Colin sent into Oceania. Altogether there were 74 priests, 26 Little Brothers of Mary, 17 coadjutor brothers, three laymen and one laywoman. Of these, 21 would die before 1854.
During the 18 years of his generalate (1836-1854) Fr. Colin saw his little society grow from 20 to 258. In that time, apart from the missionaries to the Pacific, he sent many men into the countryside of France to preach missions, hear confessions, give retreats, visit prisoners, teach catechism and give spiritual care to religious sisters. He opened three pilgrimage centres in France and accepted the parish of St. Anne's in Whitechapel, London ("mission territory" for Fr. Colin). Marists took up teaching ministries in four seminaries and six schools for boys.
In 1854 Fr. Colin resigned as Superior General of the Marist Fathers and retired to a community house in the country outside of Lyons, La Neyliere, where an atmosphere of prayer allowed him to work on the Constitutions.
Jean Claude Colin died on November 15, 1875.
Fr Colin's Biography - Download
In 2012 the superior general of the Society of Mary asked Fr Justin Taylor sm to write a new biography of the Marist Founder, Jean-Claude Colin.
The first draft of some chapters are available and can be downloaded here.
Because it is still in a provisional state, the available chapters can be used for private circulation only. No part of it may be quoted or reproduced in any way without the express permission of the author.
► 1. Introduction
► 14. The Challenges of a superior general
► 15. The End of the beginning
► 16. Not so pacific
► 17. The Watershed
►18. Oceania 1842-1845
► 19. France 1842-1845
► 20. Ten years on
► 21. Crises
► 22. New directions
► 23. Reshaping the Society of Mary
► 24. Resignation
The Cause of the Venerable Jean-Claude Colin
A “cause” is a process by which a person is officially declared a saint by the Church. The Marist Fathers has begun such a process leading, hopefully, to the Beatification of our founder, Jean-Claude Colin. Beatification is the Church’s formal recognition that a person is in heaven and has the capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Canonization is a further step whereby the “Blessed” is declared to be a saint and is included in the catalogue of recognized saints of the Catholic Church. The whole process does not make someone a saint - it is simply a declaration that the person is a saint in heaven, whose life was an example of authentic Christian discipleship, worthy of imitating.
In the case of Fr Colin, the first steps of the process have taken place. Already, because of his noteworthy holiness of life, he has been officially declared by the Holy See “Venerable” a “Servant of God”.
In order that the Church may beatify our Founder, the Marist Fathers need to present a well argued case with evidence to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
We have to show that Jean-Claude lived a holy life and indicate the fruits of this life in the lives of others, both in his own lifetime and today. We also need to satisfy the Congregation that within the Catholic community there exists a real devotion to Jean-Claude Colin by a significant number of people. This devotion should include the aspect of intercession – that people ask Jean-Claude to intercede for them and that favours have been received through this intercession. All his writings and reported words must be collected and studied and be shown to be sound and according to the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. One important task of the “cause” is the writing of a biography of the Servant of God. The final step in the process is the proving that a miracle has occurred due to his intercession. If the Church authorities are satisfied that all that the law of the Church demands is fulfilled then Fr Colin could be beatified. A further process would be canonization, which requires another miracle.
At present can participate in the advancement of the cause of Jean-Claude Colin in the following ways:
►Find out more about the Servant of God, Fr Colin.
►Learn from his spiritual teaching and pass it on to others.
►Ask favours from God through his intercession.
►If you know someone who has an incurable illness, get a group of people praying for a cure from God through the intercession of Fr. Colin - if the person should be suddenly cured contact the Marist Fathers immediately!
►You can also contribute financially to the expenses of pursuing the cause.
Pilgrimage, a guide-book to places of Marist origins
The guide is the fruit of visits to our places of origin in France by the author, Fr Craig Larkin sm, over a number of years. “The guide is intended for those visiting the places where Jean-Claude Colin grew interiorly, to understand the influences that shaped his life, to find a way of entering into his mind and heart, and to make his attitudes our own.“
Download the online version of the guide-book >>>
This simple greeting card-notelet, in .pdf format, is best printed on 100 gsm paper, then folded twice.
Included on the card is the official prayer for beatification and intentions as well as contact details for the postulator, Fr Carlo-Maria Schianchi SM, who can be advised of any favours received through Fr Colin's intercession.
Beatification prayer card
This is a prayer seeking the beatification of Fr Colin through his intercession for our intention(s).
The prayer page, in .pdf format, has four copies of the prayer and can be printed on paper or light board (190-250 gsm). Paper pages may be laminated to make page-friendly, breviary-sized bookmarks.
'On whatever distant shore'
The story of Fr Jean-Clade Colin, DL sized leaflet; best printed on 100 fr paper, then folded twice, .pdf format, 2 pages, (1.24mb)