By Anthony Barich
AUSTRALIA’S bishops will petition the Holy See to add a feast day of St Marcellin Champagnat to the Australian Church calendar on June 6.
While the Venerable Fr Jean-Claude Colin founded the Marist Fathers (Society of Mary) in Lyons, France in 1816, congregation members consider St Champagnat as their co-founder, as he started the Marist Brothers.
Upon being ordained, St Marcellin was appointed to the mountain parish of La Valla, France, where he immediately started founding “the Little Brothers of Mary”. Here, poor boys in rural areas joined the Religious life and educated their peers as Marist Brothers.
St Marcellin, born the year the French Revolution started in 1789, was canonised by Pope John Paul II in April 1999.
The Bishops Commission for Liturgy executive secretary Fr Peter Williams told The Record that the bishops would ask the Holy See if the feast day of St Norbert, a 12th-Century monastic, could be shifted forward a day or two to allow for St Marcellin’s feast day to be observed on June 6, the day he died in 1840.
A similar request was successfully made when John Paul II beatified Mary MacKillop in 1995. Then, St Dominic’s feast day was shifted fromAugust 8 to allow for her. The Dominican Order of Preachers was happy with this arrangement as the foundress of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart would be Australia’s first saint.
The Australian province currently has 87 Fathers and Brothers operating in about 50 schools in Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, NSW, Victoria and a Marist Mission in Nara Prefecture, Japan, which is an integral part of the Australian Province.
For the Holy See to rubber stamp the request, it must be established that there is a ‘cult’ – a devotion and a following – of St Marcellin; and “the answer is yes, as a devotion is particularly fostered in Marist schools”, Fr Williams said.He believes that Rome authorities will accede to the request, but it could take up to two years. “There is some very enthusiastic support for St Marcellin, as the Marist Brothers have had a profound impact on Catholic education in establishing schools in Australia and New Zealand,” he said.