Prepared by Noreen Thomas, 2010
(Member of the MFLSC)

Bearing the Marist Charism to the Edges of the World:
Marist Missionary Sisters

   In 1842, five years after Marist Fathers and Brothers arrived in Oceania, two women on the island of Wallis sent
an open letter to the women of Lyons, France, asking for them to come and teach the women of their region. A lay
woman named Francoise Perroton responded. She arrived on Wallis in 1846 and lived alone among the native
women there and on Futuna for twelve years. Though not considered the founder of the Marist Missionary Sisters
(SMSM), she paved the way for the “pioneers” - ten women who followed Francoise to Oceania and committed their
life to mission in the Marist spirit. Over 800 pages of these women's letters preserve their struggles and courage as
they worked among the people of the South Pacific during the second half of the nineteenth century. Gradually their
small mission groups became organized as a whole community with a constitution. In 1931, after being recognized
as the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, they continued to evangelize, teach, nurse, treat and empower
people but responded to these needs not just in Oceania but throughout all parts of the world.
   Mission in the Marist spirit is the key for Marist Missionary Sisters through to the present. SMSMs must be willing
to live and work among the people in another culture-often for many years at a time. True to the pioneers still, they
are courageous in mission, often forging into settings rife with violence, disease and/or isolation, always bringing the
Gospel to the marginalized of the world so to draw all to Jesus through His Mother. (Larkin, Craig, sm. A Certain
Way, 112) (SMSM flier, “The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary”)

A few notes from Antoine Forissier:

“Francoise's own insight could be characterized as a marian concern for the feminine world, namely, “to teach
women the Gospel and everything that will be useful to them. This particular concern for serving and developing the
awareness of women per se differentiated her from the outlook of Jeanne- Marie Chavoin” (For a Marian Church,

“This consciousness of women now seems to be an integral part of the Marist family heritage.
It is not without significance for women of today that the first person to illustrate this principle was a lay woman” (249).

Marist Spirituality: SMSM

(Soeurs Missionnaires de la Societe de Marie)
A Tree with Several Branches

The Society of Mary is a "tree with several
branches". It was originally envisaged as a multi-
branched congregation, a vast enterprise
embracing all kinds of people: lay people as well
as religious, brothers, sisters, and priests, all
working for the same goal. This image captured
the imagination of the first Marists, and it
continues to do so today.

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