A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Colin’s Cause — A Long and Winding Road

Part 3 of 3

This article is based on the work of Fr Ronald Nissen SM in his Chronology of the Cause for Beatification of Jean-Claude Colin, and from his article in the MM in March 2018. Fr Ron writes, “I am especially grateful to Fr Gaston Lessard for his encouraging, thorough and ready assistance in producing this resource” which is online at


The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) called religious congregations to renew and revise their rules and regulations. As a consequence, Fr Coste’s attention, and that of the Society of Mary as a whole, became focussed on preparations for a General Chapter in 1969. In the years following, there was a burgeoning of interest in Marist studies.

In 1967, Fr Lessard returned to his home province of Canada, and Fr Kevin Roach (1934-97) came from New Zealand to look into the objection about Fr Colin’s dealings with the Oceania Vicars-Apostolic. Fr Roach’s doctoral thesis for the Gregorian University in 1963 had been about the beginnings of the Church in Oceania and the difficulties that Bishop Pompallier and Fr Colin had with each other. Fr Roach was busy during 1968-69 with preparing for the Chapter, but worked on the objection during 1967 and again in 1970. He returned to New Zealand in 1971.

Origines Maristes, containing more information than was needed for the Cause, was finished in 1968. Documents relevant to the main difficulty -- the Courveille case -- were critically examined with a detailed commentary on them.

Fr Coste pointed out that the Founder always referred to the ‘letters’ sent to Rome, and one sent to Rome from Cerdon in November 1819 has never been found.

Fr Kevin Roach SM

Fr Jean Coste SM


The Chapter of 1969 was mainly concerned with revising the Constitutions, which would, in the end, take 25 years to complete, and during this time, Fr Colin’s Cause would fade very much from Marist consciousness. After the General Chapter, Fr Coste produced two books about Fr Colin: A Founder Speaks (1975) and A Founder Acts (1981). While he gave many talks, retreats and seminars about Fr Colin, his work was not related directly to the Cause. In 1982, Fr Coste left the General House, and there was no longer an official Postulator.

In 1985, revised Constitutions were presented at a General Chapter. By this time, there was little interest in Fr Colin’s Cause, which, in effect, had not progressed since 1941 when the four main objections (see above) were put forward.

Fr Mauro Filipucci SM

Fr Donal Kerr SM

Fr Larry Duffy SM

Fr Carlo Maria Schianchi SM


It was not until 1991, at the Council of the Society in Suva, that a request was made for the re-opening of the Cause. No agreement was reached.

In 1993, at the General Chapter, Fr Coste presented an historical review of the Cause, and Fr Mauro Filipucci outlined what needed to be done if the Cause were to be re-opened. The Chapter decided not to re-open the Cause, and asked that a new biography be written.

Fr Donal Kerr (1927-2001) wrote Jean-Claude Colin, Marist, which was published in 2000, and covered Fr Colin’s life until the Society of Mary was approved by Rome in 1836. Failing health stopped Fr Kerr from continuing with the biography.


The General Chapter of 2009 authorised the new General Administration to look into the possibility of re-opening the Cause. The Cause would have to begin again, starting with the diocesan process in Lyons.

In 2010, at the first Annual Review Consultation of Society of Mary major superiors in Rome, it was decided to re-introduce the Cause. Fr Larry Duffy was given the task of “liaising with work on the Cause” on behalf of the General Council.

Fr Carlo Maria Schianchi was appointed Postulator-General. Fr Justin Taylor was asked to write a ‘definitive biography’ of the Founder, and Fr Ronald Nissen was asked to produce written material and set up a website promoting fama sanctitatis – the reputation of holiness – of Fr Colin.

In 2011, Fr Scianchi attended a Postulators’ course and passed the subsequent examinations, as required by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the same year, NZ iconographer Michael Pervan wrote an icon of Fr Colin, now displayed in the General House chapel; and Fr Justin Taylor arrived in Rome to work on the Colin biography.

Fr Justin Taylor SM

Fr Bernard Thomasset SM

Fr Alois Greiler SM

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin


In 2013, Fr Bernard Thomasset was appointed as Vice-Postulator of the Cause to help with the French side of the Cause, and at La Neylière, the 1927 painting of Fr Colin by Tony Tollet was discovered at La Neylière in the Colin Museum where it now hangs. Fr Alois Greiler began putting together a Descriptive Chronology of Fr Colin’s life, which was published in 2014.

On 24 September of the same year, Fr Scianchi sent a swathe of documentation to the Archdiocese of Lyons for examination by committees of historians and theologians. Fr Schianchi said, “Now it’s up to the Archdiocese of Lyons to activate all necessary procedures for the further development of the Cause. The only work which remains for us Marists is to accompany this moment with a special prayer to Fr Colin”.

In October 2013, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons at the time, sent a petition to Rome, asking that the Cause be re-opened.

In 2016, Cardinal Barbarin received a nihil obstat from Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of Saints, effectively a permission for the Cause to proceed at diocesan level. Two theological censors were to study Fr Colin’s writings, and an historical commission was to look into the troubled relationships between the Vicars-Apostolic in Oceania and Fr Colin, and Propaganda Fide, “as well as questions about the writing of the Constitutions, and other difficulties that might arise”.

In November, the French bishops gave their full support to the Cause, “with a massive vote”, at their meeting in Lourdes. Marist Bishop Ghislain de Rasilly from Wallis and Futuna, and Marist Archbishop Michel Calvet from New Caledonia were present.

In 2017, the Cause was re-opened in Lyons, with the official beginning of the investigation taking place on 6 June.

On its closing day on 11 October 2017, the Society of Mary General Chapter voted unanimously in support of the Cause, and in November, Assistant-General Fr Paul Walsh was appointed as liaison person for the Cause.

In September 2018, Fr Justin Taylor’s Jean-Claude Colin, Reluctant Founder, 1790-1875 was published by ATF Australia.

In August 2019, the re-modelled Colin website – jeanclaudecolin.org – was launched; and in September, Assistant-General Fr Bernard McKenna took over the Cause portfolio.

In 2020, the Colin Cause Network was established to provide local promoters:
Frs Christian Abongbung (Africa), Lauro Arcede (Asia), Ronald Nissen (Australia), Yvan Carré (Canada). Bernard McKenna (Gen Adm), David Sanchez (Mexico), Kevin Head (NZ), ‘Aisake Vaisima (Oceania), Arnaldo da Silva (S America) and Leon Olszamowski (USA).

Fr Paul Walsh SM

Fr Ben McKenna SM

Fr Ron Nissen SM

In July, the Historical investigation concluded in Lyons and Documentation was sent to Rome.  

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