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Feast of the Nativity of Mary coincides with birth of Marist branch 192 years ago

08/09/2015: Italy

The Marists Sisters celebrate on September 8th the anniversary of their founding which coincides with the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

During their celebration, the Marists Sisters are recalling how this Marist branch was born on 8 Sept. 1823 and their foundress, Jeanne-Marie Chavoin (Mother Saint Joseph).

“Jeanne-Marie Chavoin was raised in Coutouvre north-west of Lyon, the first child of a happy marriage,” said Sister Vivienne Goldstein, general councillor of the Marist Sisters.

“Her parents were simple, hard-working folk and educated their daughter at home, where her father ran the village tailor shop,” she told the Institute of the Marist Brothers in an interview on Sept. 4.

According to Sr Vivienne, Jeanne-Marie learnt much from her parents, especially from the example of taking in and caring for someone rejected by others.

“She was discerning her vocation when Pierre Colin served for four years as curate in her parish,” she told. “A few years later, following the Fourvière Pledge, Pierre’s brother, Jean-Claude, revealed to him the plans for establishing the Society of Mary and the hope that it would comprise women and men, lay and religious.”  

The two brothers sent Jeanne-Marie, then 31 years old, a letter inviting her to meet with them.  

“At that moment, after years of rejecting various possibilities in the certainty that they were not right for her, Jeanne-Marie at last knew that this was God’s call to her and subsequently became the foundress of the Marist Sisters,” recalled the general councillor.

The Marist Sisters are one of the four branches of the ‘Marist family,’ which includes the Marist Fathers and Brothers, the Marist Brothers, the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary as well as the Marist Laity.

“As the smallest of the branches of our Marist family, we are delighting in the richness of being ordinary, the significance of being with the other – the prisoner, the asylum seeker, the sick, the bereaved,” explained Sr Vivienne.

 “Perhaps what we offer is our very littleness, allowing us to be hidden and unknown in its best sense, transparent instruments of divine mercy,” she remarked.

The Marist family is commemorating this year the 200th anniversary of an event that took place in Fourvière, France, on 23 July 1816, in which 12 Marist aspirants climbed the hill to the shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière and promised to found the Society of Mary.

Sr Vivienne noted that the Marist Sisters are celebrating this anniversary by prayerful reflection on its meaning in our own lives personally and communally as we engage with today’s world” and that they will be participating in the activities organised by the Marist Family in each of the countries where they live. 

“We are represented on the organising committees and will be sending representatives to the key events planned to take place in Lyon around the time of the actual anniversary,” she said.

In the picture, from left to right: Sisters Maryanne Harford, Vivienne Goldstein, Grace Ellul, Sylvette Mané, Anne McCabe

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