Now that COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to lift, I am looking forward to having all students and staff back onsite! My thanks to our staff and young men for swiftly moving to our Learning at Home plan.
On June 6, we celebrated Champagnat Day. Unfortunately, our usual College and wider Marist Community celebrations were not able to take place. As a former Marist student, I always enjoyed the celebrations that went with Marcellin’s feast day. Then, as I moved into adulthood and joined the Marist Association of St. Marcellin Champagnat, I continued to mark the day in different ways. Marcellin Champagnat’s passionate spirit, daring vision and persistent work continue to be embodied in those of us who are members of the Marist Association of St. Marcellin Champagnat.
As I share the following information, I have typed in bold those people and places that we honour today at Marcellin College through the naming of various buildings, houses and activities. Joseph Benedict Marcellin Champagnat was born in Le Rosey, Marlhes, France in 1789, to Marie Therese Chirat and Jean Baptiste Champagnat. At the end of the French Revolution, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Lyon. Then, as a young priest, he committed to establishing a Marian Society while in a small chapel at the Shrine of Fourviere. Marcellin’s concern for the education of children and young people was rooted in his own educational experience. Because of the French Revolution, Marcellin did not attend school until age 11, and that experience lasted only one day! Marcellin watched in horror as the school teacher beat a student who tried to answer a question that had been posed to Marcellin. He left school that day and did not return to formal education until he entered the seminary at age 16. Although gifted with natural intelligence, Marcellin’s lack of formal education caused him to struggle as a student. With determination and perseverance, Marcellin managed to meet all his academic requirements. His memories of the school teacher who beat the student, and his own recollections of his academic struggles were the basis of his educational philosophy: “to educate children you must love them and love them all equally.”
On October 28, 1816, three months after his ordination, Marcellin was called to the Montagne home where 16 year old Jean-Baptiste Montagne was dying. As Marcellin prepared to hear the confession of Jean-Baptiste, he realised that the young man had little religious or academic education. It occurred to Marcellin that Jean-Baptiste was one of many young people victimized by lack of education during and after the French Revolution. Marcellin soon set about organising education for the children of La Valla. In 1839, Brother François Rivat replaced Marcellin as Director General and Champagnat’s successor.
Throughout the world, people associated with the Marist Brothers traditions celebrate Champagnat Day in honour of St Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers. St Marcellin Champagnat died on 6th June 1840 at his much loved Hermitage. The Hermitage was the place which Champagnat built around 1824 to accommodate the Brothers. St Marcellin Champagnat was a Marist Father when in 1816 he began the order of the “Little Brothers of Mary”. Later they changed the name to simply “Marist Brothers”. The Marist Brothers together with thousands of lay Marists continue to provide education and support to all. The Marist Brothers provide some form of assistance (education or other) in over 70 countries throughout the world, with Virtute ad Altissima.
As members of Marist Schools Australia, we celebrate the feast of St Marcellin Champagnat on or close to the 6th June each year. We pray that as Marists we can continue to be a witness to the Marist characteristics of:
• Family Spirit
• Love of Work
• In the Way of Mary