In this jubilee year, the siblings are celebrating.
The Marianist brothers and sisters each mark 200 years of service to their communities during a worldwide, 20-month celebration.
“Both religious institutions have been ‘siblings’ from the beginning, according to the mind of our founders,” wrote the superiors general of the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate.
Born out of the chaos of the French Revolution, the congregations’ roots began in diverse lay communities of faith open to all Christians. Founded by the Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon and Marie Thérèse de Lamourous, the lay communities grew and sparked the desire of a small group eager to take religious vows.
“Our Marianist founders’ vision for rebuilding society and Church through a network of dynamic and engaged faith communities is as applicable today as it was 200 years ago,” said Sister Leanne Jablonski, F.M.I. ’85, director of the Marianist Environmental
Education Center at Mount St. John and Hanley Sustainability Institute scholar-in-residence for faith and environment.
“Marianist sisters today live Adèle’s spirit by collaborating with our other Marianist branches and with other organizations to
address justice concerns, including the needs of women, children, the environment and those in poverty. In Pope Francis’ spirit of hope, mercy and care, we are joyfully building a Church and world where no one is left out.”
The jubilee theme “To know, love and serve” highlights actions ever-present in Marianist text and traditions.
The celebration began May 15, 2016, just prior to the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, and encompasses the founding anniversary of the Society of Mary, Oct. 2, 1817.
The celebration continues through Jan. 22, 2018, the feast day of Chaminade.
The congregations commissioned a three-paneled icon, which is traveling the world visiting Marianist communities. It features artwork of the wedding feast at Cana created by Brother Salvatore Santacroce, S.M., of Italy. Flanking the art are original letters penned by Adèle and Chaminade.
“The icon is a way to unify every Marianist community,” said Father Bob Jones, S.M. ’98, chaplain at Chaminade Julienne High School, during the icon’s December visit to Dayton.
The Society of Mary founded what would become known as the University of Dayton in 1850. The Marianist sisters joined them on campus in 1962 when the University opened its first women’s residence hall. Both congregations remain integral to campus, religious and scholarly life.
“We are small but mighty,” said Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I. ’87, associate professor of sociology. “We have about 330 sisters and are the smallest of the three branches. When we choose a ministry, it’s often to complete the Marianist Family because we are best when we — women and men, lay and religious — are together,” she said.
This will again be the case in Malawi, where the sisters will, in a new ministry this year, complement the works of the Society of Mary and lay communities by teaching in a high school for girls. The sisters will also be starting a ministry in Vietnam, their 16th country of service and as the first religious branch to go there.
“I think [Adèle] encourages us to be risk takers and to, in faith, know that Mary and her son will be with us,” said Sister Estella Ibarra, F.M.I. ’68, former member of the general administration in Rome. “When you use that refrain over and over in prayer and everyday
activity, pretty soon you live it. It becomes more than a mantra; it becomes a reality.”
Today, the Marianist Family operates 18 high schools, three universities, four retreat centers and six parishes in the United States. Worldwide, they can be found on six continents and in 34 countries.
“Few things last 200 years these days in our rapidly changing world,” said UD President Eric F. Spina. “Yet the Marianist charism has endured and thrived during an era when it seems we’re always busy chasing the next big idea, when faith and culture often clash, when electronic communication replaces, all too
often, personal conversations.”
Two hundred years ago, Chaminade recognized power in the revolutionary call for “liberty, equality and fraternity,” said Father Jim Fitz, S.M. ’68, vice president for mission and rector. But he also realized something was missing — Christian values. The violence of the Revolution betrayed the Christian values on which it rested.
“If we were all sons and daughters of God, the violence of the Revolution wouldn’t be a part of it,” Fitz said of Chaminade’s insight. “We talk a lot about community. It is rooted in this time, when through adversity we somehow came together to support each other but also to be witnesses to different values — to working together and collaborating across class lines.
“How do we dialogue; how do we work together for a common humanity; how do we keep faith in the mix? Chaminade showed us how in his day and age. We must do the same today.”
*Blue dots: Brothers and Priests — The Society of Mary 1,056
*Orange dots: Daughters of Mary Immaculate 331