Marist Charism & Culture Pilgrimage, 2016

In Sep/Oct 2016 a group of Marist school principals and leaders of the Marist Charism & Culture team spent several weeks exploring the places of Marist origins. Their journey began in Rome where Marist Founder, Jean-Claude Colin, had sought and won approval for the various Marist branches. Their pilgrimage continued in France led by MCC leader, Kim Evans, and Fr Gerard Hall SM, and assisted by Sr Teri O'Brien SM, Fr Ray Chapman SM and other Marists along the way.....



From the introduction to the MCC pilgrims guide:

'As we enter the second phase of our MCC Pilgrimage to Rome and France it is important that we reflect on the spiritual significance of our journey to Marist places.So we turn to the very heart of the Marist journey – to area around the city of Lyon and the Rhone-Alpes region of France - the places where it all began.

'A 'tree with many branches' born and nurtured by the efforts of Jean-Claude Colin and his brother Pierre, Jean-Claude Courveille, Marcellin Champagnat, Jeanne-Marie Chavoin, St Peter Chanel, Francoise Perreton and their fellow brothers and sisters.

'From Le Puy to Fourvière, from Coutouvre to Belley and Cerdon in the Bugey Mountains; from St Bonnet le Troncy and Barbery in the north through La Neylière to St Chamond (L’Hermitage), La Valla and Marlhes/le Rosey in the south; we will follow in the footsteps of our Founders.

'At the same time we will share stories, break bread and drink wine with the Marists, who so generously host our spiritual adventure, and with our fellow pilgrims; as together we walk and talk the journey of those small-giants who made this all possible...

Go to: La Neylière  |  Le Puy  |  Lyon - Fourvière  |  Lyon - Ste Foy  |  Coutouvre & Jarnosse  |  Barbery & St Bonnet-le-Troncy  |  Rosey, La Valla & the Hermitage  |  Belley - Bon Repos  |  Belley - Cathedral, Bishop's House, College, La Capucinière, Maison St Anthelme  |  The Bugey mountains  |  Taizé, Ars, Lyon celebrations

La Neylière

After arrival at Lyon, our pilgrimage begins at the Marist residence of Notre Dame de la Neylière in the countryside near the village of Pomeys and less than an hour’s drive from Lyon. It was a place of retreat and retirement, and eventual death (Nov 15, 1875) of Marist Founder, Fr Jean-Claude Colin. He is buried here. His bedroom and study are special points of interest; also historical displays and audio-visual in ‘L’Espace Colin’ and the Oceania missions museum. Our pilgrims use this special place as a base for the first days of their pilgrimage...


Le Puy

Scenic medieval and pilgrim city at the south-western limit of Marist places; a traditional starting point for the ‘camino’ to Santiago de Compostela; it is dominated by the giant statue of Notre Dame de France and the chapel of St Michael, each standing on a massive ‘puy’ (volcanic plug).  Our pilgrims visit the cathedral  (Notre Dame du Puy) for Mass at the site of the miraculous healing of Jean-Claude Courveille (1809) and later an inspiration to form the Society of Mary (1812).


Lyon - Fourvière

For centuries the ‘ancient chapel of the Virgin’ has been a place where devout persons would seek the intercession of Mary on their future. The twelve Marist aspirants naturally came here (Jul 23, 1816) to pledge their commitment to a Society of Mary. The chapel now stands in the shadow of a large basilica built later. It remains a place of prayer.  Outside is a commanding view of the city of Lyon. The River Saone flows quietly below. Our pilgrims visit this foundational place of the Society of Mary to celebrate Mass in the ancient chapel....


Lyon - Ste Foy

Marist residence in the area of Ste-Foy-lès-Lyon, to the immediate south of Lyon central. It was built in Fr Colin’s lifetime and visited many times by him for chapters, meetings and visits to the scholastics who studied there. Some active Marists and a retirement community live there. The chapel has special memories and once held the remains of St Peter Chanel. The fine library continues a wealth of historic books. Our pilgrims visit...


Coutouvre and Jarnosse 

Birthplace of the Foundress of the Marist Sisters, Jeanne-Marie Chavoin (Aug 29, 1786); family home is very close to the parish church where a stained window features Jeanne-Marie and others from the village. The Chavoin house is now owned by friendly family who show visitors the cellar of their home where clandestine Masses were celebrated during the French Revolution. The cellar has been cleared and restored in recent years.

Jarnosse is a short drive away where Jeanne-Marie Chavoin built a convent (1855); the building still stands next to the parish church.  Jeanne-Marie died here (1858) and was first buried here. A tiled cross in the church sanctuary floor marks the place of her original grave. Our pilgrims celebrate Mass at this place so special to the Marist Sisters...


Barbery and St Bonnet-le-Troncy

Barbery is the hamlet where Jean-Claude Colin was born (Aug 07, 1790) in the Beaujolais region of central France, north-west of Lyon.  A memorial cross and plaque mark the place of the Colin home in the picturesque countryside, with the adjacent forest where Jean-Claude’s father would hide the parish priest during the Revolution and where the young Colin would retire for quiet and seclusion.

St Bonnet-le-Troncy, a short drive from Barbery, was the childhood home of Jean-Claude Colin where he spent much of his boyhood in the home of his uncle, now the ‘Colin Museum’, a few metres from the parish church (rebuilt in 1821).


Rosey, La Valla and the Hermitage

Marcellin Champagnat was born in this hamlet (May 20, 1789); the house is still standing; windows in the chapel depict events in Marcellin’s life. It is in parish of nearby Marlhes.

Lavalla: First community and school of the Marist Brothers.

The Hermitage: built by Marcellin Champagnat and early Marist Brothers. Fr Champagnat died here (1840) and his relics are in the main chapel. Fr Colin is depicted in one of the stained windows nearby. There are now extensive, modern conference and accommodation facilities. Our pilgrims visit...


Belley - Bon Repos

First ’mother house’ of Marist Sisters, now a retirement centre, with small community of active sisters. Our pilgrims enjoy the welcome and hospitality of Canadian Marist Sister, Sr Teri O'Brien SM, directress of the ’Centre J-M Chavoin’ with its historical materials and displays. SrTeri assists pilgrims in visiting nearby Marist places. Bon Repos's chapel is the final resting place of Jeanne-Marie Chavoin (behind panels at rear of the chapel).


Belley: College, La Capucinière and Maison St Anthelme

Cathedral / bishop’s house: Site of many meetings and confrontations between Jean-Claude Colin and Bishop Raymond Devie (buried inside the cathedral in side area);  Fr Colin reluctantly became a canon of the cathedral.

College: First residence of the pioneer Marist missionaries and their base for the Bugey missions after moving from Cerdon; later Fr Colin was appointed as the college rector (1829); school eventually staffed by Marists;  now ‘College Lamartine’, Catholic secondary schooll.  Peter Chanel was at different times rector and spiritual director. Our pilgrims gather by a statue (erected by St Peter Chanel's former students) in the main courtyard, opposite one of the Blessed Virgin Mary erected by Fr Colin (1833).

La Capucinière: Second residence in Belley and formation house for early Marists; now a school facility, although the chapel is still used for religious purposes; original steps in the chapel exist on which the Marists knelt for the first professions and election of Fr Colin as superior-general (Sep 24, 1836).

Maison St Anthelme: Former diocesan seminary and now conference and accommodation centre, and base for our pilgrims in the eastern parts of the Marist places.



Cerdon is a small town in the picturesque congruence of three valleys at the northern end of the Bugey mountains. It is famous for the bubbly pink wine-producing grapes of its vineyards. For Marists it is imporant as the first parish appointment of Jean-Claude Colin (Aug 1816 to mid-1825) as assistant to older brother, Pierre. The first Marist Fathers’ community began here (Oct 29, 1824) on the arrival of Fr Etienne Déclas. It was the base for the first three Bugey missions in early 1825.

Church: 15th century church of St John the Baptist; stands next to the presbytery; Colin brothers heard confessions in the Lady Chapel; original statue of Our Lady is on the left at the back of the church; clock tower destroyed in the Revolution, rebuilt in 1844; church extended in 1863. In the church is a contemporary Marist display.

Presbytery: Fr Colin began the writing of Marist rule and constitutions here. The building was rebuilt by the Colin brothers in 1822;   first Marist Sisters. Jeanne-Marie Chavoin and Marie Jotillon, lived in the presbytery, before moving to their own community residence.

For our pilgrims,Cerdon holds pioneer memories of both the Marist Fathers and the Marist Sisters...


The Bugey mountains

Part of the ‘massif’ dividing France and Switzerland and site of the first Marist missions in twenty-seven of its parishes (1825-1829). Our pilgrims visit several of the Bugey villages for a sense of the early Marist missions. The picturesque mountain scenery was snow-covered during the original winter missions.


Taizè, Ars -- and end-of-journey celebrations at Lyon