MMC office in Sydney’s Hunters Hill

The Marist Mission Centre cares for the alienated, marginalised and dispossessed. It focusses on development projects for poverty alleviation in countries of the Asia-Pacific region. It regularly comes into contact with young people in Africa, Thailand, Philippines, South-West Pacific, Peru, Venezuela and Brazil.

The Marist Mission Centre is committed to promoting peace and challenging the causes of injustice and poverty by raising awareness and funds within the Australian community and by partnering overseas community groups in sustainable development projects. The Marist Mission Centre Australia is a special work of the Australian Province of Marist Fathers; the Priests of the Society of Mary.

Beginnings

The Kofukuji temple in Nara, Japan

The Marist Mission Centre was established in 1949. Known then as the Japanese Marist Mission League it supported the first Marists who went to Japan after the second world war. Former prisoner of war, Fr Lionel Marsden SM and his family and friends founded the Japanese Marist Mission League. During his years as a prisoner-of-war, Lionel promised that should he survive he would to go back to Japan as a missionary. Meeting in the Lower Town Hall Sydney, Lionel’s family and friends gathered to help him fulfil his promise.

Pledging their financial support, they offered to assist Lionel and other Marists working to assist survivors of the ravages of war and evangelise Japan.

The Japanese Marist Mission League’s first honorary president was Father James Murphy SM. A work of the Marist Fathers’ Australia, in 1950 Father John Glynn SM was appointed as Director. Through Lionel’s efforts and those of Marists returning from Japan, the membership of the Japanese Marist Mission League expanded.

The then Bishop of Furuya gave the Nara Prefecture to the Marist Fathers. When they arrived in Nara, the Marists found one old Japanese-style church and a small kindergarten. They purchased land and buildings, establishing their first mission stations.

To meet need the Marists built seven more churches, four other kindergartens and two old people’s homes.

Re-branding and a new focus

Pioneer Director of MMC, the late Fr Michael O’Halloran SM.

In the middle 60s, under the Directorship of Father Michael O’Halloran SM, the name was changed to the Marist Mission Centre. The name change was significant. As the economy of Japan improved so did the financial independence of Marists working in Nara thus making possible a new direction for the Mission Centre. At first attention was turned to the South Pacific Marist mission areas which at that time were expanding and were in need of support both in terms of infrastructure and especially support for formation programs as local vocations increased.

The Marist Mission Centre expanded its support to embrace other missionary groups working in many countries as far away as Upper Volta, Thailand and other Third World nations. This approach broadened the appeal of MMC and attracted supporters from around Australia with no previous connection with Marists.

‘Mary of the Journey’ by convert Keizo Kosaka.  It depicts Mary leading the child Jesus home to Israel after the flight into Egypt.

Involvement in the South Pacific

The improved Japanese economy enabled Marist Mission Centre to look further afield.

At first, attention was turned to the South Pacific Marist mission areas which, at that time, were expanding infrastructure support.

An increase in Pacifican Marists saw the Marist Mission Centre lend a hand in the support for formation programmes.

The chapel at Tutu on Taveuni Is, Fiji, one of two Marist Formation and Training Communities in the Pacific

Expansion into Asia

The Marist Mission Centre expanded its support to embrace other missionary groups.

This expansion broadened the appeal of Marist Mission Centre and attracted supporters from around Australia with no previous connection with the Marist Fathers.

The ever expanding requests for support meant increasing the numbers of committed friends and donors.

This was achieved through the newsletter, the establishment of an art union and personal correspondence with supporters, the latter being a feature of the Mission Centre’s success.

The Society of Mary mission outreach developed further during the 1970s and 1980s.

Mission districts were established in Africa, Peru, Venezuela and the Philippines.

Again as more young prospective vocations joined the Marists, the requests for additional funding followed.

Responding to the times

Competition for the charity dollar intensified during the 1970s and 1980s. It became clear that if the Marist Mission Centre was to continue to attract peoples’ interest their contributions needed to be tax deductible.

In 1984 the Marist Mission Centre became a registered charity under the title of Australian Marist Centre Overseas Aid Fund.

The Marist Mission Centre is a foundation member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and is registered with the Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission (ACNC).

Today MMC is one of the better established small NGOs in Australia.

It currently supports development projects in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, China, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

The Marist Mission Centre is also the principal contributor to the international missions of the Society of Mary.