A Brief History of the Marist Laity
The precise beginnings of the Marist Laity, or Third Order, are somewhat obscure. We know that groups began to gather
in Cerdon, France–where the Founder, Jean-Claude Colin, had been assigned with his brother Pierre–as early as the
The first recognizable groups arose in the early 1830’s in Belley and Lyon. In Belley it went under the title of:
“Confraternity of the Mother of God for the conversion of sinners and the perseverance of the just”. Its aim was “to excite
faith among Catholics, to unite the Christian faithful by common links of love and zeal for Mary, so that they are members
a family having the Mother of God for its mother”.
In 1845, Jean-Claude Colin appointed Pierre Julein Eymard as director and promoter of the Third Order. Within 5 years,
there were more than 300 members in various groups throughout France. In addition were members enrolled in the Third
Order while in the missions in Oceania–women that would eventually become the Pioneers of a new Marist
Congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary.
Though extremely successful in his work, Eymard’s vision of the Marist Laity differed greatly from that of Colin. Eymard’s
vision was one of the religious life extended into the secular world, with many of the rules and requirements of religious life
being adopted into the Third Order. Feeling called to found a society centered on Eucharistic Adoration, Eymard left the
Society of Mary in 1856 to become the founder of a separate congregation.
In 1872 Colin presented, in written form, the vision he had for the Marist Laity. The Laity was to be the most flexible
branch of the Society of Mary, relating to all the other branches and also a branch in its own right. Its members were to
be essentially active and apostolic, extending the love and mercy of Christ to people of every walk of life. Finally, the laity
organization was to be adaptable, so that it could be independent of the religious in the Society, and extend itself
It is this original vision of Colin that continues to influence the Marist Laity to this day.