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New Caledonia

About New Caledonia


New Caledonia has a rich and complex history, shaped by its indigenous Kanak population and French colonial influence. Originally inhabited by Melanesian settlers around 1500 BCE, the archipelago was first encountered by Europeans in 1774 when British explorer James Cook named it "New Caledonia" for its resemblance to Scotland. France annexed the islands in 1853 and established a penal colony there in 1864, deporting thousands of convicts and political prisoners, leading to violent uprisings by the Kanak people. During WW II, it served as a strategic Allied base with over 50,000 American troops stationed there. Tensions between pro-independence and pro-French factions escalated in the 1980s, resulting in the Matignon and Noumea Accords which granted increased autonomy and set the stage for future referendums on self-determination. Despite voting to remain a French territory in recent years, New Caledonia's status within France continues to evolve, shaped by its diverse cultural heritage and complex colonial legacy. In 2024, violent protests erupted again which highlighted the ongoing issues of pro-independence and anti-independence factions in the political life of the country. The situation has yet to be resolved. 





Main Religions

Christian( 50% Catholic, Protestant)  Smaller groups include Buddhist, Muslim


Time Zone




French and Kanak languages






18,576 km²

Arrival of Marists


Number of Marist Brothers Communities & location

1 - Paita

Number of Brothers


Marist Schools & location

5 - Noumea and Paita

Marist Missionaries in New Caledonia: A Legacy of Faith and Service



There is a very long connection with Marists in New Caledonia going back to the arrival of the first Marists in 1837 in the Pacific. France annexed New Caledonia in 1853 and the Brothers were very active in development of schools and orphanages and in catechetics from that time on.  


By 1873 New Caledonia was in fact a part of the Province of the British Isles which included England, Ireland, Scotland, Cape of Good Hope, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. So many French speaking brothers worked in new Caledonia over the last 170 years, supported by the French provinces and of late by the Province of the Hermitage in France.


Currently there are two French speaking Brothers residing at Paita, not far from Noumea, the capital. 


The social context of New Caledonia continues to evolve. In three referenda, 2018, 2020, and late 2021, the majority vote was to remain part of France as an overseas territory. At the same time, New Caledonia has become more integrated into the Pacific family of nations. These days, the original Kanak people are a minority (41%) in the country. 


The last census counted 24% of the population as European (40% born in New Caledonia, the rest migrated from Metropolitan France), and 11% mixed race. There are also numbers of people from Wallis/Futuna, Tahiti, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Vanuatu. Two-thirds of the population (180,000) lives in the Greater Noumea area, and about half the population identify themselves as Catholic. 


Marist Brothers' Mission-Focused Presence


It is within this evolving context that, over the last many years, two Marist Brothers - Br Jean-Paul Delesalle and Br Georges Benigaud - have remained mission-focused, while living in community at Paita, some 20 km from the capital, Noumea.


The Brothers are actively engaged with the parish and Marist laity in Paita and also offer hospitality to students from Vanuatu who study in New Caledonia. 


A Life of Service and Witness












Br Georges Benigaud, Archbishop Calvert and Br Jean-Paul Delesalle  

Earlier in their lives, Br Jean-Paul Delesalle and Br Georges Benigaud had spent many years in education ministry. On relinquishing their roles, they decided to remain in the country and live as Marists, witnessing to the vision of Marcellin Champagnat in simple, humble ways. Locally, both Brothers have undertaken a wide range of activities in catechetics, vocations ministry, and support for the poor via their food bank. In their Parish of Païta, they have been involved in the finance team, liturgical ministry, and support for the schools when requested.

At the Archdiocesan level, they have been actively engaged in support of the Archbishop in vocations ministry, liturgy, and office management. They continue to welcome visitors from overseas and share their lives with others associated with Marist life in New Caledonia. For both men, these tasks are almost full-time. Yet their constancy in community prayer and commitment to the life of the Parish never waivers.


Their connections run deep with the other branches of the Marist family in New Caledonia, the Marist Fathers, and the Marist Missionary Sisters. The brothers' active presence is a sign to all of the power of the call from Jesus to be his disciples, faithful followers of the way set out by Marcellin Champagnat.

Other Marist Institutions


There are two Marist schools in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia: Sacre Coeur Primary School, next to the Cathedral and located on a historical site, and the newer College Champagnat, a secondary school.


The Marists were present in other parts of New Caledonia, including the Isle de Pins, but over the years, the communities closed, and schools were handed to the locals. Currently, the five Marist-owned schools in Paita and Noumea are administered by the Catholic Education Authority.


The current Archbishop, Michel-Marie Calvet, is a Marist Priest, as all his predecessors, except one, have been. The Marist Missionary Sisters also have a significant presence in Noumea, with their regional center located there.


In September 2023, New Caledonia celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the first Marist Brothers community and school.  

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Marist Presence in New Caledonia

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