Sacred Care of the Marist Mission

The mission of Marist School is to form the whole person in the image of Christ through instruction grounded in religious values, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and the spirit of the Society of Mary. This mission is advanced through communal pursuit of excellence in academic, religious, extracurricular, leadership, and service programs.
When the Society of Mary founded Marist School in downtown Atlanta in 1901, the Marists probably never would have imagined that their then-military school for boys would become a coeducational, college-preparatory school leading the way in Catholic secondary education. They also likely would never have guessed that Marist School would be flourishing nearly 15 miles north of downtown in the metro-Atlanta city of Brookhaven, which did not even exist until 2012.

Through the years, resident Marist priests have modeled Marist values for generations of students and their families. Their work, always done in humble ways that reflect their esteem for Jesus’ mother Mary, has aimed to prepare students to be “honest and upright citizens, useful to society,” using the words of Marist founder Fr. Jean-Claude Colin. In today’s parlance, Marist students are said to be formed to be the faith-filled, global-ready servant leaders God has called them to be. No matter the terminology, the Mission of Marist School has been unwavering for more than 122 years because of the tireless dedication of the Marists and the steadfast support of the Marist School community.

In July 2023, the Society of Mary and the Marist School Board of Trustees made a monumental move by welcoming J. D. Childs as Marist School’s first lay president. Simultaneously, underpinned by years of forethought and planning, the Society of Mary empowered the school’s Board of Trustees, shifting the Board’s purview to governance where they previously had served as advisors. These two fundamental shifts exemplify a vital and sustained collaboration among the Marist School President, the Board of Trustees, and the Society of Mary. Their shared goal is to safeguard the Marist Mission into the future and to shape young people in powerful ways that are distinctively Marist.

“Taking sacred care of the Marist Mission is a serious responsibility,” said J. D. Childs. “The Society of Mary has given us a cherished legacy that is important to preserve for the benefit of the students we educate, as well as our world. Creative fidelity to the Mission means honoring the educational and spiritual inheritance of the order while also being appropriately responsive to the families and students today. That is our challenge, hope, and joy.”
Board of Trustees Plays Pivotal Role

Spurred by declining number of Marist religious, the Society of Mary and Marist School’s Board of Trustees put a plan in place to secure the Marist Mission through a combined responsibility of a lay President committed to uplifting the Marist charism, values, and teachings with the Board of Trustees’ oversight to ensure the strength of the Marist character of the school. A Marist priest is in place to serve as the school’s Rector and liaison to the Society of Mary.

Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Roche ’76 says the Board of Trustees is ready and eager to protect and propel the Mission of Marist School ever forward. “As a Board, we have discovered a renewed sense of joy in dedicating ourselves to broadening and advancing the Marist Mission,” said Roche.

One essential way the Board is focusing on Mission is through a Mission Committee, which has devised strategies and tactical means to increase awareness of the Marist Mission. Several initiatives have been piloted with the Board to date and will be expanded through the Marist community during the upcoming academic year. A key example is a series of reflections called My Marist. My Mission. Throughout the 2023-2024 academic year, members of the Mission Committee have shared reflections with fellow Board members to illustrate how they have been personally influenced and positively impacted by the Marist Mission. Moving forward, the plan is to have faculty and staff author similar reflections about how the Marist Mission resonates in their personal and professional lives.

Since the Board of Trustees is charged with ensuring the Marist Mission is sustained, it has developed a means to measure the soundness of the school’s mission alignment. The Mission Committee has created a mission effectiveness tracking tool to ensure Marist School remains true in terms of its Catholicity and Marist values. The tool will be used as part of an accreditation of sorts, providing a means to evaluate Marist Mission initiatives and identify opportunities for those to be improved or expanded. Marist School’s mission effectiveness tracking tool will serve as a model that the Society of Mary will use at other Marist schools across the United States.

Marist School Trustee Cathy Belatti, who chairs the Mission Committee, is confident these are steps in the right direction. “The Marist Mission and unique spirit of the Marists is so essential and so deeply engrained into the outstanding education Marist School provides. It is imperative that those of us entrusted with its care today do everything we can to preserve it for the future.”
Marist Way in Action

As always, the Marist Mission is animated daily through curricular, cocurricular, and extracurricular activities, all supported and led by mission-driven faculty and staff. Marist School’s Identity Committee, which operates parallel to the Board-level Mission Committee, is tasked with identifying and leveraging opportunities to bring the Marist Mission to life for everyone on campus in their day-to-day pursuits. Made up of both faculty and staff members, the Identity Committee will implement the learnings from the mission effectiveness tool developed by the Mission Committee and seek opportunities to boost Mission awareness.

Fortunately, there remains a strong religious presence on campus with several beloved Marist priests residing in the rectory and involved with the school, including Fr. John Ulrich, S.M. who brought decades of Marist School experience with him when he returned in 2023 for his third stint at the school. As the founder of the Marist’s student retreat program, Fr. Ulrich models an energetic Marist Way of being for students and motivates them to engage with their faith. Additionally, the Campus Ministry Department assumes the important role of guiding students on their faith journey and providing them with opportunities for community service, retreats, Mass, and prayer. Marist School’s Catholic identity also is symbolized across campus with crucifixes in each classroom as well as statues of the Virgin Mary near the chapel.

“The Marist Mission is in practice and is visible every day at Marist School,” said Marist School Principal Kevin Mullally. “Through the Identity Committee, we strive to vitalize and strengthen the many ways the mission is integrated into the Marist educational experience.”

A significant way the Marist charism, values, and teachings are conveyed across campus is through the Marist Way program, which the Society of Mary created as one of the initial ways to maintain the school’s Catholicity and Marist identity into the future. Marist Way Director Mike Coveny ’81 focuses on the formation of individuals in the school community to promote the spirit of the Society of Mary in terms of prayer, community, learning, service, and vocation.

“Through faculty and staff professional development, parent studies, Marist Way classes for students, and a yearly focus on a Marist theme, the Marist Way movement enhances our community understanding of what it means to be Marist and the remarkable way the Marists live the Gospel—that is, the way Mary lived it,” Coveny remarked. “We share, more intentionally than in the past, that Marists strive to breathe in the Holy Spirit so that they may think, judge, feel, and act like Mary, the first disciple of Jesus.”
Continued Society of Mary Partnership

As Marist School nears the completion of its first academic year under the lay leadership of J. D. Childs, his leadership and the ongoing partnership with the Society of Mary put Marist School in excellent hands. Marist School Rector Fr. Bill Rowland, S.M. embodies this continuing relationship.

“The Society of Mary remains committed to Marist School,” commented Fr. Rowland. “My role as Rector is to partner with J. D. to help broaden his Marist knowledge and liaise with my confrère in the Society of Mary USA on behalf of Marist School. It is already proving to be a fruitful partnership on both sides, and I am certain the school’s strong Catholic emphasis and Marist philosophy of education will endure.”

Marist School Trustee Bishop Joel Konzen, S.M., who was Marist School principal for decades before being called to serve as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, agreed.

“J. D. Childs’ leadership as president at Marist already evidences a strong commitment to the foundation laid by the Society of Mary and a notable desire to advance the Marist Mission,” said Bishop Konzen. “I have full confidence that our Marist spirituality will be enlivened continually in the persons and activities at Marist and that the school will be a robust model for living the vision of Father Colin and the spirit of the Society of Mary.”

Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers