Dylan Long ’23
In today’s world, a life of religious vocation is an unconventional path. Chaminade High School, however, is always there to support students who asks: Are you called to be a Marianist?
Tarmac sat down with Bro. Stephen Balletta S.M. ’74, the Vocation Director of the Province of Meribah, to discuss the Marianists, their mission, the process of becoming a brother, and the daily routine of the brothers here at Chaminade.
Tarmac: Who are the Marianists?
Bro. Steve: The Marianists are an order founded in 1817 by Blessed William Joseph Chaminade. They were founded to counteract secularization that occurred after the French Revolution. It was Blessed Chaminade’s vision that the Marianists would…help bring back Christianity to France at a time when Christianity was very much at the low end. Blessed Chaminade is well-known for saying that the greatest heresy of the day was religious indifference.
Tarmac: What is the relationship between Mary & the Marianists?
Bro. Steve: Our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary animates the Marianists. We say that even though the Blessed Virgin brought Christ physically into the world, we are trying to spiritually bring Christ into the world and into the hearts of men and women…Our mission is to make Mary known, loved, and served.
Tarmac: Who makes up the Marianist community?
Bro. Steve: Our community is made up of around 900 men in what’s called “mixed composition.” That means we include brothers and priests in our number. A lot of religious orders would be exclusively priests or exclusively brothers, but it was part of Blessed Chaminade’s vision that there would be a balance of priests and brothers living side-by-side in an egalitarian way… The Society of Mary is definitely not a hierarchical society. For example, the Religious Superior of a province can be a brother; it does not have to be a priest. This differs from other religious orders where the leaders are priests.
Tarmac: What words would you use to describe the Marianists?
Bro. Steve: If you wanted to picture the Marianists today, I would talk about mission, community, and prayer.
Tarmac: What is the importance of community to the Marianists?
Bro. Steve: Community is the substantial difference between becoming a diocesan priest [or a Marianist brother]. Diocesan priests are usually living in a rectory by themselves or with one or two other priests. For the Marianists, community is an important part of our life. We are not only working side-by-side for the evangelization of young people, but we are also living side-by-side…from community celebrations, to preparing meals together, to eating together. It’s like a family, in the sense that we are all collaborating with a common goal. That common goal is the faith formation of our students, but also our own sanctification. Much of what we do in the community is geared towards helping each other get to heaven.
Tarmac: What vows do the Marianists take?
Bro. Steve: The Marianists take different types of vows. At the time of our temporary profession, we take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These vows are common to all religious orders. Temporary vows mean you are promising to live in poverty, chastity, and obedience for a year. These are renewed on a yearly basis until perpetual vows are made, which is usually three to nine years later. At the time of perpetual profession, a fourth vow is added: stability. This means that we are promising to remain faithful to the Blessed Virgin Mary and be in service to her for the rest of our lives.
Tarmac: How long is the Marianist formation process?
Bro. Steve: The formation process for a Marianist begins with what is called his aspirancy. This is the year where he is living and working in the community, aspiring to be a Marianist…but has not yet received the religious habit of a simple black suit…If the religious congregation and community decides he makes a good candidate for religious life, he would proceed to the novitiate stage. This is a two-year program of intense study for religious life. During the first year, you are officially called “brother” and spend minimal time working on the mission, which is to say in the school. Rather, the study of theology, philosophy, Marianist spirituality, and Marianist history is the primary focus. In the second year, you would continue with religious courses, but you would still have apostolic activities, which translates to teaching maybe one or two classes in the school. After this period, you would make your temporary vows. You can then apply for permanent vows 3-9 years later. In recent years, we have added a discernment year. If the person wants more time to consider his vocation, he can have this year to do so. He would still teach in the school and live in community, but a sense of freedom is present.
Tarmac: What is the education requirement for a Marianist?
Bro. Steve: Currently, we are taking candidates after they have completed college. Some express interest
Another opportunity to learn more about what life is like as a Marianist brother is through the Faustino Club, which is moderated by Bro. Steve and several of the other brothers. One of the events that the club holds is “Operation Fiat.” This event is a night of prayer, dinner, and spiritual witness to the faith and the Marianist community. This past November, Operation Fiat involved students attending evening prayer with the brothers and having dinner prepared by
Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. ’81 and Bro. Patrick Sarsfield. Thomas Lynch ’23 recalled the experience, saying, “Operation Fiat helped open my eyes not only to religious life, but to an awareness of God’s action and call in my own life. The time we spent in prayer helped bring my faith to another level—something I wish to continue doing outside of Chaminade. I am lucky to have experienced this religious devotion with my classmates, and I am confident that it will help open up many doors in my life.”