Marcellin Champagnat

Marcellin Champagnat was born in Marlhes on May the 20th , 1789. He was the penultimate of a family of 10 children. His parents were farmers.
He received a rigorous education from his mother, and it was his aunt, living with them, who gave him his first religious instruction.
His father died when he was 14, then his mother 6 years later.
At 16, he entered the minor seminary of Verrières, near Montbrison, and 8 years later, in 1813, he entered the major seminary of Lyon.
It was there that he was part of a group whose members, notably Jean-Claude Colin, committed to founding a congregation dedicated to the Blessed Virgin: the Society of Mary. Marcellin Champagnat then also began to think about a congregation of Brothers: “We need Brothers, we need Brothers to teach catechism, to help the missionaries, to teach the children. » (Life, III, pp. 29-31).

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At the age of 27, Marcellin Champagnat was ordained priest in Lyon and appointed Vicar at Valla en Gier, where he served for 8 years.
It was during this period that Marcellin Champagnat met, in a small village in Pilat, the young Jean-Baptiste. He realized while giving the last sacrament to this dying young man that he knew nothing about God. “I can’t see a child without wanting to tell them how much God loves them.” This thought of Marcellin Champagnat led him to realize his idea of forming Brothers intended to provide instruction to children.
He then bought a small house near the presbytery of La Valla to house a few young men from the surrounding area, eager to devote their time
life in the service of God by educating children from the surrounding countryside. These were the very beginnings of the Little Brothers of Mary or Marist Brothers. He surrounded himself with a teacher to give primary education to the children. The Brothers were also inspired by his method to teach in their turn.

In 1825, Marcellin Champagnat was relieved of his duties as vicar in La Valla. He was thus able to devote himself entirely to the Little Brothers of Mary.
“To raise children well, you must love them, and love them all equally.” This way of seeing the world quickly led to the success of the school. To cope with very large numbers of people, Marcellin Champagnat acquired
land located in Saint Chamond in order to build his novitiate there. This is the place where the current Notre-Dame de l’Hermitage is located.
The original building is built against the rock of the valley.
But very quickly this large building became insufficient: the values and motto of Marcellin Champagnat “All to Jesus through Mary, all to Mary for Jesus” attracted ever more people and Notre-Dame de l’Hermitage never stopped to expand until 2010, the last phase of major works.
Exhausted by illness and concerns linked to the founding and development of the congregation, Marcellin Champagnat prepared his succession and had Brother François Rivat elected as general director of the Marist Brothers, with the mission of continuing his work.


On May 18th , 1840, very weakened, Marcellin Champagnat read his spiritual testament.

The main message? “Let there be among you one heart and one mind. We can say of the Little Brothers of Mary as of the first Christians: see how they love each other! “.
Marcellin Champagnat died shortly after, on June 6, 1840.

When he died, 48 schools had already been created, 7,000 students trained and the congregation already had no less than 280 Brothers.

In 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared Marcellin Champagnat venerable.
He was then beatified in 1955 by Pope Pius XII before being canonized and recognized as a saint of the universal Church by Pope John Paul II on April 18, 1999 in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

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