Marist Laity Australia Guidelines 2008

Marist Laity Guidelines - Revised 2008


Here is what I want…that there be another Society…one consecrated to me, one which will have my name, which will call itself the Society of Mary, whose members will call themselves Marists.

Marist Laity Australia is one contemporary expression of the lay branch of the Marist Family tree. This family is composed of Religious Sisters, Missionary Sisters, Brothers and priests as well as lay men, women and children. All Marists share the one spirit of Mary and all share in the task of doing her work.

The image of a tree with several branches dates back to the origins of the Marist story. Father Jean-Claude Colin, the founder of the Society of Mary, spoke often of this living image, likening it to the body of the Blessed Virgin:

She is the mother of mercy. Her body will have several branches. She will be open to all kinds of people

From the very beginning, lay people were welcomed as members of the Society of Mary. In 1833, Fr Colin presented a Summarium to Cardinal Odescalchi in Rome with the aim of gaining approbation for the Society of Mary. The section dealing with TheConfraternity of the Faithful of Both Sexes Living in the World” (the laity) states:

The general aim of the Society is…to gather, so to speak, all the members of Christ, whatever their age, sex or standing, under the protection of the Blessed Mary…so that at the end of time as at the beginning, all the faithful may with God’s help be of one heart and one mind…For this reason, entry to the Society is open to lay people living in the world in this Confraternity or Third Order of Blessed Mary.”

The intention of this document and its composer, is remarkably inclusive. It welcomes all people to the nourishment of a life lived in the way of Mary. According to Father Colin, lay Marists also have an intrinsic role to play – that of renewing the Church.

Let us take courage and work hard, but always unknown and hidden. The Society must begin a new Church over again. I do not mean that in a literal sense, that would be blasphemy. But still, in a certain sense, yes, we must begin a new Church….We too must gather together everyone through the Third Order.

Father Colin saw the need for the 19th century Church to transcend itself to meet the new realities of the times. This “new” Church would be inclusive, gathering all people back to God through Mary. He saw this as most effectively happening through the laity. His prophetic words give lay Marists today a clear sense of their role as ‘hidden and unknown” transformers within the Church, giving it a more feminine, Marian face.

In 1872, Father Colin wrote the Constitutions for the Marist Lay Branch. Throughout all his years, Colin remained faithful to the earliest idea that the Society include a branch for lay people “living in the world”.

The final document presented in this Preamble is regarded by Marists as the definitive articulation of what the founder believed was the authentic vision for Marist Laity. It was written by Father Alphonse Cozon SM and is part of his Postulatum to the 1880 session of the Marist Fathers’ General Chapter. In a difficult but beautifully crafted passage, Cozon has caught Father Colin’s vision for lay Marists. It speaks of a going beyond rather than a staying within. Lay Marists are not ‘comfort zone’ people. Having received by a ‘gracious choice’, the spirit of the Society, Mary’s spirit, their mission is to take this to the world. There is a radical sense of liberation in the words offered, of losing oneself in the world for the sake of the Kingdom.

From Alphonse Cozon SM Postulatum 1880
    “…In the mind of the Founder, the lay branch ought not to be confined within the limits of the Marist Family. It ought to be, in a sense, a work outside the Society, to which the Society ought to communicate its own spirit, the spirit of the Blessed Virgin. Its development, therefore, ought not to be restricted to the Society; we are not to retain it in our hands, but only let it pass through them. Thus, it is not a piece of the mechanism of the Society’s clockwork; it should not revolve around us, so to speak, like a planet around its constellation, but should shine out into the Church. It is no longer a valuable way to help the Society, but rather a means of extending the Society’s action throughout the world, so that the same thrust, going forth from Mary, passing through the religious branches and the members of the lay branch, may spread out and lose itself in the Church without any personal consideration.
[In keeping with “the signs of the times”, the Committee has taken the liberty of using words which are more indicative of the present reality. Hence: “lay branch” rather than Third Order and “religious branches” rather than Fathers]


Marist Laity Australia is the name chosen for the Association by a representation of members.


Marist Laity Australia is a living branch of the Society of Mary – part of a dynamic spiritual tradition within the Catholic Church. Its purpose is to contribute to the realization of the original vision articulated by the founders – to live the Gospel in the Spirit of Mary – to be instruments of God’s mercy - “to think as Mary, judge as Mary, feel as Mary and act as Mary in all things.”

From this way of being, the association shall have the following objectives.


INFORMING – to enhance communication and collaboration among Marists in order to deepen communion – “one heart and one mind.”

FORMING – to foster spiritual formation and education in the Marist story/tradition as an expression of the Living Gospel. “A Marian Church which lives the Gospel after the manner of Mary.

TRANSFORMING – to realize the healthy independence of Marist Laity, through the creation of a lay Marist branch that will take up its responsibility for living the Marist way - “to make the whole world Marist.”

  1. Education in the Marist Story and Tradition is essential for Marist Spiritual formation to enable Marist laity to be Mary’s presence in our world. This formation will take place through:
    • personal prayer and the Sacraments
    • group formation and Reflection days
    • drawing on Scripture, Church and Marist Resources
    “Mary’s way of living the Gospel encourages us to ask, ‘what are the needs of this person? How can I help this person meet God? This is the meaning of the hidden way of life. Mary’s transparency is such that we see through her to Christ.”

  2. Marist Laity communicates and collaborates with all branches of the Marist Family in a sense of solidarity. This collaboration will take place through gathering for various Marist celebrations. A variety of media - eg email, newsletter, website - is used to communicate with all branches of the Marist Family throughout the world.

    “Very special bonds unite us to the other branches of the Marist Family, as we attempt to foster in the Church the spirit of Mary, which is our common heritage.”

    “This communion of mind and heart is basic to the very mission of the Society. It would be the means by which Marists would learn to discover the Gospel together and live it as Mary did; it would be a vehicle for reconciliation and evangelisation “to begin a new Church over again.”

  3. Lay Marists are aware of the needs of the poor and marginalized in our communities, in our country and in our world. We collaborate with other Marists in their work of evangelization and outreach. We work with faith based groups who promote justice, peace and the wellbeing of all peoples.

    “The mission of the Marist laity is to be seen primarily as evangelising.”

“It is by a Gracious Choice that we belong to the family of Mary”

  1. Membership -
    To be a member of Marist Laity Australia is to have a sense of being called and chosen by Mary and to respond to Mary’s gracious choice, to live her spirit in the unique context of our daily lives. The term “gracious choice” describes this particular gift.

    This Marist association embraces and welcomes all with an open heart. Any person interested in living the Marist spirit, either as an individual or part of a group, may be a member of this association.

  2. Leadership
    This association has
    • a core committee of laity with members drawn from Marist groups throughout Australia
    • a representative from each of the four religious branches appointed by their Provincials acting as liaison between this Association of Lay Marists and the Congregations.
  3. Responsibilities of Leadership
    The core committee carries the offices of President, Secretary, Treasurer and 4-5 other lay Marists. Ideally most of these core committee members would have connections with one or more of the Marist religious branches.
    1. The President is the face of Marist Laity in Australia and worldwide. Responsible for:
      • convening and chairing regular committee meetings
      • animating the team, initiating and promoting membership
      • networking with Marist family and other relevant groups
      • providing promotional cards, banners and other materials
    2. Secretary is the office manager for Marist Laity Australia Responsible for:
      • preparing the Agenda after consulting members
      • distributing the Agenda prior to the meeting
      • taking Minutes of Meetings
      • distributing Minutes within two weeks following meeting
      • liaising with President re-incoming and outgoing
    3. Treasurer is the business face of Marist Laity Australia Responsible for
      • all legal and financial activities,
      • receiving and paying accounts by cheque or online- reconciling chequebook with monthly bank statement
      • providing monthly statement of accounts to committee
      • controlling the maintenance of association’s funds
      Official documents such as Bank Statements should to be addressed to The Treasurer, Marist Laity Australia at the appropriate address but not to a person by name.

    4. Newsletter Editor is the voice of Marist Laity Australia Responsible for
      • producing and distributing a quarterly newsletter
      • gathering and preparing articles for the Newsletter
      • working with an editorial committee reviewing and editing the newsletter before publication
      • producing articles and Marist Laity news items for publication in local Catholic papers, Marist Messenger and other journals
      An Editorial Committee comprised of 2-3 co-opted people (including editor) will advise on content, sentence structure and layout.

    5. Webmaster enables Marist Laity Australia’s communication to the world Responsible for
      • maintaining the website
      • keeping the information up to date
      • archiving material that can still be accessed
      • providing a forum for Marists throughout the world to make contact
    6. Resources/Web Assistant is the provider of Marist material when needed Responsible for
      • maintaining the Resource Room at Hunters Hill
      • keeping history of Marist Laity Australia up to date
      • updating website to assist webmaster in keeping news relevant
      • archiving documents at the end of each year
      • alerting team to latest research, news, happenings in Marist family and Church.
    7. Liturgy/Events person provides prayer and celebration for all occasions Responsible for
      • preparing opening and closing prayer for bi-monthly committee meetings
      • organising Venues and speakers for events
      • preparing liturgies for celebrations and Reflection days
      • providing CD’s, Tapes, music, A/V equipment when required.
    8. Formation/Spirituality team keep members faithful to living Mary’s spirit Responsible for
      • planning and providing formation programs for Leadership and for members of local or parish groups assisting in formation programs wherever they occur
      • evaluating and re-evaluating formation and spirituality programs
      • preparing commitment celebrations
    9. Meetings
      • Meetings are held bimonthly or whenever deemed necessary
      • Reflection days are held twice yearly in May and November
    6. FINANCE

    Marist Laity Australia envisages a healthy independence by requiring members to pay an annual membership fee. Inability to pay this amount shall not be a reason for exclusion from membership to the association.

    These funds will finance the production and dissemination of the newsletter and purchasing of resources.

    Other methods of fund raising will be developed.


    ‘Simplicity, flexibility and inclusiveness’are the values that should inform these Guidelines and the nature of the association itself as it continues to grow and develop.


    The Call of the Laity .... from the decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem promulgated by his Holiness Paul Vi,18 Nov. 1965:

    In the Church, there is diversity of service but unity of purpose. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the Laity, too, share in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own role to play in the mission of the whole People of God in the Church and in the world. (Chapter 1, Par 2.)

    The apostolate of the social milieu, that is, the effort to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws and structure of the community in which a person lives, is so much the duty and responsibility of the laity that it can never be properly performed by others. In this area the laity can exercise the apostolate of like toward like. It is here that lay men people add to the testimony of life the testimony of their speech; it is here in the arena of their labour, profession, studies, residence, leisure and companionship that lay people have a special opportunity to help their brothers and sisters. (Chapter 3, Par 13.)

    The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or as members of various groups or associations. (Chapter 4, Par 1.)

    There are many forms of the apostolate in which the laity build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ. (Chapter 4, Par 16, 3).

    There is a great variety of associations in the apostolate. Some set before themselves the broad apostolic purpose of the Church; others aim to evangelise and sanctify in a special way. Some propose to infuse a Christian spirit into the temporal order. Others bear witness to Christ in a particular way through works of mercy and charity.

    Among these associations those which promote and encourage a closer harmony between the everyday life of the members and their faith must be given primary consideration. Associations are not ends unto themselves; rather they should serve to fulfil the Church’s mission to the world. Their apostolic dynamism depends on their conformity with the goals of the Church as well as on the Christian witness and evangelical spirit of the individual member and of the association as a whole. (Chapter 4, Par 19, 1&2)


    Marist Laity Australia members appreciate the encouragement of the wider Marist Family during their journey towards Association and for their continued support until the present day.

    For more information click here......


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18 March 2023

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Please listen to the audio regarding the guidelines for Marist Laity Australia.

How do these guidelines call us to form organisations of Marist Laity today?

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