Marist Sisters in Australia gathered on 23rd July to mark three significant events. Firstly they acknowledged the anniversary of the Promise of Fourviere on 23rd July 1816. On this day a group of seminarians pledged themselves to beginning a congregation in Mary’s name. Beginning the afternoon with prayer the sisters remembered the Fourviere event and reflected on the gift of the Marist Spirit that has been passed down for over 200 years.
Secondly, the gathering was an opportunity to welcome Sr Grace Ellul home to Australia after serving as Congregation Leader for 7 years, and to thank her for her commitment and service during those years.
At the Marist Sisters General Chapter held earlier this year, Sr Kate McPhee was elected as a General Councillor. Kate will soon be leaving for Rome. While she will be greatly missed in Australia, the sisters expressed their love and support for Kate as she takes up this new role which she has generously accepted as God’s call.
“All to God’s greater glory and to the honour of Mary, the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
(Fourviere Pledge, 23rd July 1816)
Each year Marists throughout the world recall the day in July 1816 when twelve seminarians climbed the stairs in Lyons to the chapel of Our Lady of Fourviere to commit themselves to beginning a congregation in Mary’s name, a Congregation whose sole motive would be to work “for God’s greater glory” by following the example of Mary. Marists gather on this day to celebrate and recall the courage and commitment of the founding Marists who believed that just as Mary was present in the early Church she is present with us today, guiding and supporting us. This day is also an opportunity for Marists to renew their commitment to be Mary’s presence in the world today attentive to the needs of those who are in need of God’s compassionate love.
In Australia the day was marked by a celebration of the Eucharist at Hunters Hill. Marists from all branches – Laity, Sisters, Brothers, Missionary Sisters and Priests – participated in the celebration during which all prayed anew the Pledge of Fourviere.
Fourvière celebrations in Suva, Fiji, began the evening before as members of the five branches of the Maist Family went to the Parish hall in Laucala Bay to put up pictures and decorate their booths in readiness for a vocation display the next day.
The morning of 23rd July, the day of the 200th anniversary of the promise at Fourviere, was bright and beautiful. The program began at 9.30am with prayer prepared by the FMS Brothers. It really set the tone for the day. The prayer concluded with a video clip presenting each of the branches. Then there was a time for mingling with other members of the Marist Family.
At 3pm in Laucala Bay Church Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Peter Loy Chong. He was very interested in our Marist History and wanted to know what happened after the promise and when and how the female branches came into the picture. His questions were answered by many who were sharing with him at the dinner table. Our celebrations ended with a lot of joyful dancing of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for those who made the promise, for the perseverance of Fr. Colin, Fr. Marcellin, Mother St Joseph and Sr. Francoise Perroton.
It was with a great sense of anticipation that groups representing the five branches of the Marist Family gathered at Sacred Heart College on the morning of July 23 to celebrate together the bicentenary of the Fourvière Pledge made in 1816.
The day’s activities began in the chapel where we were welcomed by Brother Richard fms and as Fourvière candles were lit, we prepared to join in the opening prayer which drew together so many aspects of this special day in the Year of Mercy. The tone was set for all that would follow which began with the keynote address given by Fr Justin Taylor sm : What happened at Fourvière. This deepened our appreciation of all that had preceded the drawing up of the pledge, setting it in the context of the life and history of the seminarians who composed it.
During the afternoon a series of workshops was provided: Marian music, Mary in Art, Keeping Pledges, Early Missionaries whose names were recorded in the heart of Mary, Mary, Mother of Mercy, and the Work of Mary today as it is lived by each of the branches.
The day concluded with Mass celebrated by Fr David Kennerley sm, provincial, at the end of which candles imprinted with an image of Mary of Fourvière were presented to each branch of the family while all recited a Fourvière pledge for today. A beautiful day drew to a close leaving 150 Marist people with memories to ponder and challenges to absorb.
On Saturday 23rd July approximately two hundred and fifty members of the Marist Family gathered at Villa Maria Hunters Hill to celebrate the bicentenary of the Pledge of Fourvière. The main celebrant for the Eucharist was Fr Kevin Bates sm. Kevin concluded his homily by signing a song he had written specially for the occasion – More than Memories.
Following the homily Statements of Commitment from each branch of the Marist Family were read. At the end of the Mass these statements were signed by the Leaders of each of the branches. A moving moment in the liturgy was when all present were invited to stand and read together an Australian version of the Fourvière Promise.
Following the Eucharist there was a great spirit of joy and thanksgiving as the celebration continued with a meal in the auditorium of St Joseph College, Hunters Hill. During the meal guest speakers, Maria Baden and Br Michael Green fms, shared their reflections on the Fourvière Pledge and doing the work of Mary into the future.
In 1816, in the chapel of Our Lady of Fourvière, twelve seminarians dared to dream that they could make a difference in the world by beginning a congregation in Mary’s name. Today, two hundred years later, Marist Fathers, Marist Sisters, Marist Brothers, Marist Missionary Sisters and Marist Laity are spread throughout the world. We ask you to join with us in celebrating the Pledge of Fourvière on 23rd July. We pray that like the men of Fourvière we will be fired with zeal as we strive to “work together for the greater glory of God and the honour of Mary.”
Mary, of Fourvière, show us what love is
and from where it draws its origin
and its constantly renewed power.
Holy Mary, good Mother of Fourvière,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son ‐ the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely to God’s call
and this became a wellspring of the goodness
which flows forth from him.
You inspired the first Marists to create a Society
dedicated to showing the Marian face of the Church.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world. Amen.