Charism of The Society of Mary
Fr David Kennerley SM
The Society of Mary emerged out of the French Revolution and its secularising spirit. The first Marists were diocesan seminarians who became captivated by the sense that Mary wanted a religious congregation of men and women working beside laity to rebuild the Church.
For Marists, the heart of this renewed Church was Mary and her manner of quiet, non-judgmental outreach to others – our being humble instruments of mercy. Jean Claude Colin who founded the Marist Fathers with their Brothers recognised how jealous the post-Revolutionary age was to its newfound freedoms. Given many in France had abandoned the faith, or not had the benefit of a pastor or Catholic teacher for nearly 25 years, he saw people now needed to be evangelised with great sensitivity ‒ as a mother concerned for her struggling child. For Colin, Marists have to be ‘hidden and unknown’ evangelisers, always acting so that nothing in them is an obstacle to Christ meeting any person, especially those most estranged from him.
Historically, the first ministry of Marists was missions to the most isolated rural villages, those most neglected during the Revolution. In a sense, the corollary of this first work was quite naturally the mission to Oceania – very distant people, and lands posing such difficulties no-one else wanted to go there. Today, New Zealand Marists are working in the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Peru, Thailand and London city-centre.
Marists live in community for prayerful support and work educating youth, serving in pastoral areas, assisting in chaplaincies, and engaging in outreach through the media. Our focus continues to be that of building up the body of Christ in a secularising age, ever conscious of Mary, unobtrusively present beside the apostles at the birth of the Church.
Fr David Kennerley SM is Provincial of the Society of Mary, based in Wellington.