Saint Marcellin

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Marist Brothers

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Marist in South Africa

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St Henry’s Marist College

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Saint Marcellin

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Marist Brothers

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Marist in South Africa

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St Henry’s Marist College

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Saint Marcellin Champagnat

Marcellin Champagnat was born in 1789 in revolutionary France. At the age of eleven and with little aptitude for academic work, Marcellin decided he preferred farm work to hours spent over books. A few years later, a visiting priest suggested that he might like to train for the priesthood. Marcellin found the early years of his studies extremely difficult.

While in seminary, Marcellin and some others gave thought to the founding of the Society of Mary (the Marists). He was determined the Society should include teaching Brothers to work with rural children with no Christian education.

In 1816, in his first parish, he was called to the bedside of a dying sixteen-year-old boy completely ignorant of Christian teaching. Deeply moved by this experience, Marcellin decided to act.

In January 1817, Marcellin and two others formed the nucleus of the Marist Brothers. Others soon followed. A primary school was established which became a teacher training centre for the Brothers. Marcellin motivated them with his enthusiasm for teaching and spreading the gospel, teaching them how to pray and to live in community.

After a long and painful illness, Marcellin died on 6 June 1840, leaving this message in his Spiritual Testament: “Let there be among you just one heart and one mind. Let it always be said of the Little Brothers of Mary as it was of the early Christians: See how they love one another!”

Marcellin’s simple educational philosophy: to teach children, one must love them. He saw God at the centre of life and Mary as a sure means of attracting people to God.

Marist Brothers 

Founded in 1817, the Marist Brothers is an international community with the goal of educating young people. In various parts of the world, Brothers minister in schools, work with young people in parishes and religious retreats, at-risk youth settings, young adult ministry and overseas missions.

Time and again, St Marcellin said he wanted “to make Jesus known and loved” throughout the world. He would run a needle through an apple (representing the earth) to demonstrate how he wanted the message of “Ad Jesum per Mariam” (“To Jesus through Mary”) to cross the globe.

The Marist Brothers are involved in educational work throughout the world and now conduct primary and secondary schools, academies, industrial schools, orphanages and retreat houses in 79 countries on five continents, reaching almost half a million young people.

Marist in South Africa

In the mid nineteenth century, the Bishop of the Cape set about getting religious brothers and sisters to teach the children in his small Catholic community. Answering his invitation, five Marist Brothers landed in the Cape in 1867 and established the first two Marist schools outside Europe in Cape Town. A sign reading “Marist Brothers’ Schools” can still be seen on an arched gateway leading from the Public Gardens to the original school building (now an annex to the Art Gallery).  The concern of the early priests and religious was to care for their relatively small Catholic communities.

The Marists spread to the Eastern Cape, the Transvaal, the Transkei, Basutoland, Natal and the Orange Free State.

In 1960, the famous “Winds of Change” speech was delivered to Parliament in Cape Town. The world was being radically transformed through a post-industrial revolution, decolonization, and, in the Church, an unexpected revolution had been launched with the Second Vatican Council. South Africa suffered the tragedy of Sharpeville and the persecution of opponents of apartheid, with Nelson Mandela and other figures involved in the struggle being imprisoned.

The SA Bishops Conference had censured the politics of apartheid. In the face of political repression, they spoke out increasingly strongly. The 1976 Soweto student riots caused even deeper soul-searching among Catholics. Some Catholic schools had already opened their doors to all and, by the late 1970s, Catholic schools registered for “Whites only” were admitting significant numbers of children of other races.  More resources and personnel were being directed towards the poor and the marginalized. In the 1980s Marist communities were set up in Umtata , Slough and north of Kuruman. The Brothers’ work with the poor includes training of staff in rural schools, adult education, teaching in township schools, fund-raising for disadvantaged schools and community centres.

There are five Marist schools in South Africa: St David’s Marist Inanda, Sacred Heart College, Marist Brothers Linmeyer, all in Johannesburg; St Henry’s Marist College in Durban and St Joseph’s Marist College in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

St Henry’s Marist College

In 1928, the Marist Brothers purchased a large property, known as ‘The Maze’, in Upper Glenwood, Durban, with the intention of opening a Catholic school for boys.  St Henry’s opened on 4 February 1929, with just 17 names on the roll.  Since those early days, the College has grown in size and numerous additions have been made to the original buildings. There are now more than 600 scholars attending St Henry’s. In the 1990s, St Henry’s made the decision to enroll girls as well and since 2008, girls have been matriculating along with the boys.

Despite all the obvious changes and large increase in the number of students, St Henry’s remains true to the vision of Marcellin Champagnat and the Marist Brothers.  Our belief is in the education of the “whole” person, encompassing the development of the spiritual, academic, physical, emotional and social quality of each student.

St Henry’s Marist College

Significant Milestones


The Little Brothers of Mary (the Marist Brothers) purchase a prime Ridge Road property on the Berea, Durban. St Henry’s Marist Brothers’ School opened its doors on 4 February with 17 pupils and Brother Paul Eusterius as the first Principal.



Inauguration of the House system.


The new double-storeyed building of six classrooms, a library, Principal’s office and cloisters is opened.


A new library building is opened and blessed by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM.


The first Matric class writes the first public examinations and the nine writing achieve a 100% pass.


The first swimming gala is held.


Mr Anthony Akal is appointed the first lay Principal.


The pre-primary classes begin for the first time, with both boys and girls at the little desks.


Marcellin Champagnat is canonized.


The Marist Association Hall opened by then Archbishop Wilfrid Napier OFM and blessed by Archbishop Denis Hurley OMI.


The first girls write Matric and the first Head Girl is appointed.


Dr Akal retires after 28 years as College Principal.


Mrs Rene MacQuillin is appointed as College Principal.


The College celebrates its 85th Anniversary. The College playing fields are renamed and blessed by Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM, Archbishop of Durban.


Dr Stephen Leech (1989 alumnus) is appointed College Principal.


The College celebrates its 90th Anniversary.