The Marist nBrothers of the Schools is an Institute of Consecrated Life founded in 1817 by St. Marcellin Champagnat (1789-1840) in France. Marcellin was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1816. Soon after his ordination, he embarked on realization of his dreams as a seminarian which included; organizing a group of Brothers to catechize and teach the poor as well as dispirited youth. On January 2, 1817, the Institute called Marist Brothers was found with just two candidates recruited. These disciples were initially called the Little Brothers of Mary, borne out of Marcellin’s love and devotion to the Mother of Christ Jesus whom he fondly referred to as “Our Good Mother”.
The formation of the "Little Brothers of Mary” equally had its inspiration from Marcellin’s early experiences as Priest when he administered the last rites to a dying teenage boy, whom he discovered had never heard about God and his Love.
At the time of Marcellin’s death in 1840, the Institute had grown remarkably with the Marist Brothers in France running several Schools for destitute children. Marcellin’s Champagnat was canonized a Saint in April 1999 by Pope John Paul II.
The mission originally assigned to the Marist Brothers' Institute by the Church was Christian education of young people for the knowledge of God, culture and self discovery, while living authentic Christian lives for the benefit of the home and society at large. Today the works of the Marist Brothers have spread to as many as Seventy Nine Countries across the world, including Nigeria and about twenty other African Countries.
Marist Brothers in Nigeria:
The Institute of The Marist Brothers of the Schools began its mission in Nigeria in 1949 with the invitation of Bishop Whelam of the Owerri Archdiocese. Late Bishop Whelam an Irish Spiritan priest had taken note of the tremendous achievements of the Marist Brothers in his home Country, hence their invitation to carry out similar apostolate in Nigeria. It was also a deliberate effort aimed at consolidating the efforts of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) from Ireland who were mandated to evangelize then Eastern Nigeria.
The initial mandate of the Marist Brothers in Nigeria was the handing over of the management of two existing Catholic Schools, namely; Bishop Shannahan College (B.S.C.), Orlu in the present Imo State and College of Immaculate Conception (C.I.C), Enugu. The schools were however, taken over by the government of Eastern Nigeria in 1970 after the Civil War.
The Marist Brothers in Nigeria, pioneered by Brothers Conleath (Irish) and Cormac (Scottish) who arrived on December 15, 1949 were to be merged with the Diocesan Congregation of St. Peter Claver and so in 1959, the existing Brothers of St. Peter Claver became Marist Brothers after training at the Marist novitiate.
In order to ensure the growth of the Marist school apostolate, many early Nigerian Brothers were sent to Britain, Canada, US, Australia, Germany, Italy, France etc for professional training.
In 1970 after the Civil War that saw the expatriate Brothers returning to their home countries, Nigerian Brothers took over the running of the Marist Mission in the country and have successfully done so till date. Nigeria became a Province in 1992 with Br. Fabian Okeke as first indigenous Provincial Superior. Nigeria also became Africa’s third Marist Province after South Africa and Madagascar.