When the 12 seminarians signed the pledge to found the Society of Mary in 1816, they did not clearly describe the activities of the Society. The promise simply stated that they would dedicate themselves “in every way” to the “salvation of souls.”
However, by the time Jean-Claude Colin came to write his letter to Pope Pius VII in 1822, outlining the plans for the Society, he had clarified the Society’s aims, which would be to see to care for the salvation of their own souls and of others “through missions to non-believers and believers alike, in any part of the world.
As well as being international in nature, this Marist mission was still to be a missionary experience even for those who stayed at home.
Jean-Claude Colin seems to never have professed a personal desire to go to the foreign missions, but his call to mission in “any part of the world” was explicitly part of the original plan.
Today the islands of the Pacific may conjure up fantasies of sunshine, palm trees, white beaches and blue lagoons; places for marvelous holidays, but for these 19th Century Frenchmen, the Islands of the Pacific had quite a different image.
These islands were, literally at the very end of the earth, and may navigators had brought back horrifying stories of their experience there.
At the time of the election of Jean-Claude Colin as Superior General of the Society of Mary, and the first professions of the first Marists, four priests packed their bags and prepared for departure to New Zealand and Oceania.
The mission of Society of Mary has then always been both international and local and today is spread throughout the world and is in: Africa, Australia, Bouganville, Brasil, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Spain, Thailand, Tonga, U.S.A., and Wallis and Futuna.