A Catholic Monthly Magazine

SMSM — Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary

Sr Patricia Leamy

Collaborators in Continuing the Mission of Mary in the Church (3)

SMSM Collaboration with the Marist Brothers

The Time of the Pioneer Sisters

One of St Marcellin Champagnat’s biographers, Brother Stephen Farrell, wrote: ‘Marcellin’s fantastic amount of work with the Brothers had never distracted him from what was, for him, his ultimate aim: the creation of a large Society of Mary as originally envisaged by the seminarians at St Irenaeus’. 1

One body, several branches, all doing Mary’s work, this was Marcellin’s vision   throughout his life - a dream shared by Jeanne-Marie Chavoin and Jean-Claude Colin. Because of his understanding of his vocation as a Marist, Marcellin characteristically worked in collaboration with others.

Sr Marie de la Croix

The sense of belonging to Mary’s family was strong among the priests, brothers and our pioneer sisters. In their letters the sisters give news, tell of those who are sick, and write of the unexpected and distressing death of Brother Jacques in Futuna in 1863.2  From their various islands they send greetings to the ‘Fathers and Brothers’.3  Feast days were often celebrated together. The Sisters helped out with domestic tasks such as sewing and laundry for the priests and brothers, and the brothers assisted with practical matters in the convent such as repairs or painting. Sometimes they sent something special from the Sydney Procure like apples or jam. 4

Marie Françoise Perroton experienced much loneliness during her first years. A family from Brittany moved from Wallis to the Marquesas in the year after she arrived. Brother Joseph (Muraour) visited her often, and sometimes came with Father Junillon to drink kava in her house, but he was transferred by Bishop Bataillon. She shared in a letter to Father Julien Eymard, ‘Father Junillon will be the only one left here. He is a holy man and very kind, but it is not appropriate that he visits often. However, he does so out of charity for me...’ 5

Srs Marie de la Pitié

Marie de la Merci

Fr Peter Julien Eymard

In Sydney Brother Augule provided a great service for the missions as a shoemaker. Perroton mentions him in five of her letters. She contracted elephantiasis, and suffered for many years from not having suitable shoes that fitted her. Other pioneers also appreciated the special service this brother offered, and years later Sister Marie de la Merci wrote sadly to Father Poupinel that the brother was losing his sight. 6

Pioneer Sisters and the Omer Pacha, 1858

There were some trying times in the long and sometimes rough sea voyage to the Pacific when the first group of three sisters set out with other Marists on the Omer Pacha in 1858. Sister Marie de la Pitié and her two companions greatly appreciated how the ‘Brothers ... have been real nurses for us’. 

One of our pioneer sisters, Sister Marie de la Croix, an excellent teacher, wrote from New Caledonia how she really liked the teaching methods of the Little Brothers of Mary and used many of their books. 

Recent examples of collaboration

The Marist Brothers have truly opened the doors for SMSM to become more involved geographically in the mission of Mary, giving us the opportunity to ‘help in the work of evangelisation’ (Constitution 56)

Thanks to the initiative and encouragement of the Brothers, SMSM opened communities in the Philippines and in Kiribati. In these countries, like true brothers in a family, the Brothers offered us both means of accommodation and work to get us established. In General Santos City in the Philippines, we still have three SMSM sisters collaborating in mission at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University where we have been now for 32 years. The Brothers also supported and encouraged the SMSM in our early years in Peru, Colombia and Madagascar. And for a time, we had a community at the Brothers’ school in Save, Rwanda.

Sisters and FMS Brothers, SMSM Convent, Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 2008

During the recent Ad Gentes missionary thrust of the Brothers we were delighted to be able to host those who were missioned to Bangladesh.

Notre Dame of Dadiangas University,
General Santos City, Philippines

For over a year the Brothers lived with SMSM in Dhaka; the house remains their base whenever they go to the city from the new St Marcellin High School for children of tea plantation workers. The two SMSM Sisters are in charge of the girls’ hostel and teach English.   

1 Stephen Farrell FMS, Achievement from the Depths, Parramatta, Mac-Arthur Press Pty Ltd, 1984, p. 165.

2 Merci (Sydney) – Yardin (Lyon), 09.03.1859,
Letter 16, unpublished; Rome, SMSM General House (RGH).

3 Examples: Miséricorde (Apia) – Poupinel (Sydney), 21.01.1867, Letter 40; 02.03.1868, Letter 44, 07.09.1869 Letter 51; Pitié (Futuna) –
Poupinel (Sydney), 12.02.1859, Letter 9; 02.12.1861, Letter 32; Bon Secours (Sainte Marie Conception) - Poupinel (Sydney), 01.12.1861, Letter 26 (all unpublished letters; RGH).

4 Croix (St Louis) – Poupinel (Sydney), 16.03.1869, refers to things received from Brother Joseph-Xavier in Sydney, Letter 109, unpublished; RGH.

Perroton (Wallis) – Eymard (Lyon), 06.10.1847, Letter 4

6 Merci (Sydney) –Poupinel (Lyon), 02.08.1878, Letter 51, unpublished; RGH

This article is an edited version of a paper delivered in Auckland in 2017. The paper was published in Forum Novum on the Society of Mary website -- www.maristsm.org/en/forum-novum.aspx -- and it is used with the permission of Fr Alois Greiler SM, the editor of Forum Novum.


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