Not being able to get into the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church, due to preparations for a funeral being underway, I had a little time to have a look around the grounds of the adjacent St Joseph’s College. It was there I came across a commemorative monument recognising 116 years of Marist Brothers’ service to education on the Ile des Pins, through their operation of St Joseph’s, which opened here in 1877.

Worthy a quick look if time permits.

What makes the monument particularly interesting (and its raison d’être) is that it was dedicated in 1999 – the year in which Saint Marcellin Champagnat was canonised by Pope John Paul II. It recognises St Marcellin.207

For those, like me, not familiar with all the Catholic saints, Marcellin Champagnat was the founder of the Marist Brothers, a congregation within the Catholic Church devoted to Mary and dedicated to education.

Champagnat, a child of the French Revolution, who, despite his dedication to education as an adult, was a typical illiterate French peasant who left school early for a life on the farm. A visiting priest persuaded him to study for the priesthood. He still found study difficult and became a member of the ‘Happy Gang’ and a familiar sight in the taverns of Verrières-en-Forez, where he was studying. He eventually moderated his behaviour and was ordained a priest in 1816. He, along with other seminarians, soon founded ‘The Society of Mary’ which trained members (Brothers) to work with deprived children in rural areas and give them a Christian/ Catholic education.

In 1817 he persuaded Jean-Marie Granjon and Jean-Baptiste Audras, to join him in forming the nucleus of the Marist Brothers and in 1818 the first Marist School opened. It wasn’t until 1863 that the brotherhood, the Fratres Maristae a Scholis (Marist Brothers of the Schools), was formally approved by Pope Pius IX. Until then the order was officially called Les Petits Frères de Marie or Little Brothers of Mary.

Champagnat died of cancer on 6 June 1840 by which time there were 278 Brothers and 48 Marist schools in France and the South Pacific. St Joseph’s on the Ile des Pins, as indicated above, opened in 1877 and operated under the ownership of the Marists until 1993 (hence the 116 years referred to earlier).

The attached picture of Saint Marcellin Champagnat in ‘open source’ courtesy of Wikipedia.

This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my trip to Ile des Pins, New Caledonia. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Pirogues And Pancakes At The Bay – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – No Hurries, No Worries.

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