There are a lot of organisations and people in New Zealand who use the word “Marist” as part of their group or individual identity. To name just a few of them: Marist Brother of the Schools, Marist Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary, Marist Sisters, Marist Missionary Sisters, Marist Laity, and Marist Sports Clubs. Searching the White Pages for New Zealand there are 55 phone numbers with the word “Marist” in their title. There are many primary and secondary schools that consider “Marist” to be part of their special character.

These people who call themselves “Marist” do not all belong to one and the same organisation, there are quite a few separate outfits involved. However most of them consider that they belong to a Marist family and they trace the origin of it to an event that happened 200 years ago on July 23, 1816 at a shrine called Fourvière in Lyons, France.

A group of seminarians pledged themselves before the statue of Mary in that shrine to “establish a most holy congregation of mary-ists”.

So, in New Zealand and around the world a wide variety of groups celebrated the 200th the anniversary of the Marists.

In Auckland about 150 Marists gathered at Sacred Heart College, a Marist Brothers’ school. There was prayer, a keynote address by the eminent historian, Dr Justin Taylor, SM, a series of workshops and a Mass. Fr David Kennerley, provincial of the clerical branch of the Marists presided and preached at the Mass.

In Wellington, there was a full house at Pa Maria on July 23 — including very elderly priests from Marian Court. The theme of the day was “Fourvière in the Year of Mercy”. Everyone brought a “Year of Mercy in action” gift of school materials for refugee children. This produced a huge collection of about eight banana boxes full.

Presentations were given on “mercy as shown in our constitutions and as lived in my life”. A quiet time was had with a selected image of Mary.

After a shared lunch there was small group sharing on what had been heard and experienced in the morning plus the inspiration/vision for the future.

There were slides of the New Zealand contingent in Fourvière — including the Logos people and what they have done so far.

Representatives from the three recipient agencies were presented with their boxes and they told of their work. This included a Compassion Sister (working with “family reunification” refugees) whose mother was a Polish refugee — she was introduced as from “the order that are first cousins of the Marists, on the Mother’s side”.

Fourvière celebrations also included a school holiday event for about 100 young people in Northland, as well as a significant celebration in Christchurch and smaller gatherings in regional centres.