On January 26, a meeting took place in the archbishop’s residence in Lyons, France, to formally open the beatification process of Fr Jean-Claude Colin, founder of the Society of Mary. 

The meeting was presided over by the vicar-general of the archdiocese, according to a report on the society’s New Zealand website.

Others in attendance were the Promoter of Justice, the Notary of the Cause, and three historical experts.

The theological experts took their oaths of office in Paris.

The Society of Mary was represented by Fr Bernard Thomasset, the vice-postulator, and Frs Paul Walsh and Paul Loubaresse.

After a welcome by Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, Fr Thomasset delivered a presentation on aspects of Fr Colin’s work.

The formal reading of the nihil obstat granted by three Roman dicasteries then took place, followed by swearing of oaths, some procedural matters and a time of prayer.

The New Zealand provincial of the Society of Mary, Fr David Kennerley, told NZ Catholic that “Jean-Claude Colin not only had a great devotion to Mary the Mother of God, but he had enormous faith in her great desire to gather all people together around her Son. He understood that this is what Mary was utterly intent on doing ‘through us’, through him, in these our times”.

“To this end, as the reluctant designated leader of the early Marists wanting to form a new congregation in the Church precisely for this work, Colin committed himself to presenting an idea of a many branched tree to the ecclesiastical authorities in Lyon, Paris and at the Vatican in Rome,” Fr Kennerley said.

“Certainly, the various bishops Colin met both in France and in Rome had many questions about what Colin said and wrote about the proposed new congregation, but ultimately, it was their belief in this man, his convictions and his faith, that in April 1836, resulted in the choice of the Society of Mary to provide men for thenewly created apostolic vicariate of Western Oceania, a vast territory encompassing the islands of Tonga in the East to New Guinea in the west, the Marshall Islands in the north and New Zealand in the south.

“And yet, at the time, Colin only had some twenty priests ready to make profession in the newly recognised congregation! In short, precisely as a man of great faith, Fr Jean-Claude Colin had quite a significant hand in the very origins of the Catholic Church in this corner of the world. It’s a faith we present day Marists are humbled to recall, but also left encouraged to pursue.”

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