William Joseph Chaminade

William_Joseph_Chaminade Feast Day: January 22
Beatified: September 3, 2000
Venerated: October 18, 1973

William Joseph Chaminade was the 14th child born to his parents, and three of his brothers became priests. So it was not a great surprise that he decided to follow in that path. He was ordained a priest in 1785. When the French Revolution began, he refused to take an oath that denied the authority of the Catholic Church. Instead, he risked his life by serving as a priest in secret.

When government restrictions on the Church eased, much work was required to bring priests back to ministry, and Father Chaminade helped with this. But as the Revolution continued, he was forced to flee to Spain. There, his devotion to the Blessed Mother grew even stronger, and he became determined to help France return to the faith. He formed a society of priests, brothers and laymen that would use Mary as their model of discipleship: the Society of Mary, or Marianists.

He returned to France in 1800 to spread his movement. He helped found the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in 1816 for women who wished to make a commitment of religious life with the same goals as his group of men. In 1839 both congregations received approval from the Pope.

Both groups focused on teaching and the training of teachers, and their work spread from France to Switzerland in 1839 and to the United States in 1850. Today, there are about 405 Marianist priests and 800 brothers serving in 38 countries. They operate three universities in the United States — in Texas, Ohio and Hawaii — as well as 18 high schools.

Poor health in the last 10 years of his life led to others taking over the Society of Mary. Father Chaminade died in 1850 in Bordeaux, in France. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Sept. 3, 2000.

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