Jean-Claude Colin


Jean-Claude Colin
Ven. Jean-Claude Colin, S.M.

Ven. Jean-Claude Colin, S.M.
Religious Priest, Founder
Born 7 August 1790(1790-08-07)
St-Bonnet-le-Troncy, France
Died 28 February 1875(1875-02-28)
La Neylière, France
Honored in Roman Catholic Church

The Venerable Jean-Claude Colin, S.M. was a French priest (7 August 1790 - 28 February 1875) who became the founder of the Society of Mary (Marists).

Colin was born at St-Bonnet-le-Troncy, in the Rhone department of France. His father had sheltered priests during the turmoil of the French Revolution. Both parents died when Colin was only 4 years old. The revolution had resulted in a 70% reduction in priest numbers in France.

Small minor seminaries sprang up all over France as the revolution drew to a close. With his brother Pierre, Colin attended the minor seminary at Saint-Jodard, he also spent time at Alix and Verrières where he was a contemporary of Marcellin Champagnat and John Vianney In 1813 he entered the major seminary of Saint-Irénée at Lyon.

Towards the end of [1814] Jean-Claude Courveille who had been a student in another seminary transferred to Saint-Irénée. His diocese had been suppressed and merged into Lyon. Courveille recruited a group of senior seminarians to his idea of founding a Society of Mary. Courveille had been cured of semi-blindness after prayer to Our Lady of Le Puy and in gratitude had the inspiration and inner conviction that just as there had arisen at the time of the Reformation a Society dedicated to Jesus, the Jesuits so at this time of Revolution there could be a Society dedicated to Mary whose members would call themselves Marists. This idea seems to have coalesced with nascent ideas of Colin's to begin a group dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

Many of the group including Colin and Courveille were ordained as priests of the Lyon diocese on 22 July 1816. The following day a group of 12 went to the shrine of Notre-Dame de Fourvière to celebrate mass, receive communion and pledge themselves to the foundation of the Society of Mary. Colin celebrated his first Mass at Salles on 26 July and the following day his brother Pierre was appointed the Parish Priest of Cerdon in the Ain department. Jean-Claude was to be his curate there.

For six years he worked in the parish at Cerdon and on the outline of the founding documents (rule of life and constitutions) of the Marist idea. Pierre was eager to join the Marist Project and he convinced Jean Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon to begin it with them. Cerdon had been moved into the re-created Diocese of Belley and Jean-Claude convinced Bishop Devie to allow the Marists to preach missions in the Bugey, a poor and somewhat neglected country region. He was asked to take over the College of Belley as Principal and when Rome approved the Society of Mary in 1836 he was elected as its first Superior General. Rome assigned the new Society the evangelisation of the Vicariate of Western Oceania.

The Society of Mary was founded to serve the Church in the most urgent, varied and significant tasks. In 1854 Colin resigned the office of superior general and retired to Notre-Dame-de-la-Neylière, where he spent the last twenty years of his life revising and completing the Constitutions. The Constitutions of the Society of Mary were definitively approved by the Holy See on 28 February 1873. Jean-Claude Colin died at La Neylière two years later.

Chavoin and Jotillon were to become two of the first Marist Sisters.

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