By Owen Barthel ’19
Each year, Chaminade celebrates the legacy of William Joseph Chaminade with a mass in his honor and a three-day weekend. The mass offers the opportunity to learn about the life and works of Father Chaminade, and Chaminade Day serves as an opportunity to rest and reflect upon the ideals set forth by our school’s namesake.
Father Chaminade was a Catholic priest who lived in France during the French Revolution. As a part of the revolutionary movement in the 1780s, the Catholic Church was put under the authority of the French government. Father Chaminade declined to support the French authority, recognizing the Pope as the Church’s ultimate authority. He spent much of the 1790s trying to keep the Church alive and vibrant in post-revolutionary France, which was a dangerous violation of the law of the land.
Around 1800, Father Chaminade began promoting Marian Sodality, which Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M. ’74 called “one of his most enduring and important legacies.” By bringing together groups of mostly young lay people to examine their faith and do good works, Father Chaminade aimed to strengthen the Catholic Church in a time a great turmoil. Today, more than 200 years later, Sodality continues to be an important part of the Marianist community.
As the popularity of Sodality spread, Father Chaminade looked for ways to get the participants more closely associated with the Church. In 1816, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in Agen, France. The following year, he founded the Society of Mary in Bordeaux, the religious order around which Chaminade High School is organized. Both of these organizations were committed to teaching and to spreading the word of the Catholic faith. The Daughters of Mary and Society of Mary eventually spread beyond France, arriving in America in 1849.
In the end, Father Chaminade’s life is a story of faith and perseverance in the face of formidable and dangerous obstacles. He not only stood by his belief, he also worked to help others understand them and to come together to form a community that worked to make the world a better place. In honor of this, he was canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
When Chaminade students are enjoying a day off to commemorate Father Chaminade’s feast day, they will remember the brave and productive life of Father William Joseph Chaminade.