William Joseph Chaminade or Guillaume-Joseph Chaminade, now called by his liturgical title of Blessed Chaminade (April 8 1761 – January 22 1850), was a French Roman Catholic priest who survived persecution during the French Revolution. He founded the Society of Mary, also called the Marianists, in 1817. The Marianist Family's other three branches—the married and single men and women of the Marianist Lay Communities, the consecrated laywomen of the Alliance Mariale, and the nuns known as Daughters of Mary Immaculate—also look to Chaminade as a founder or inspiration. Beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3 2000, Blessed Chaminade's feast day is celebrated on January 22.
Ordained a priest in 1785, Chaminade moved to Bordeaux in 1790, after the French Revolution had begun. There, he became an enemy of the state by defying the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which would have required him to take an oath affirming the Revolution's secular values and disclaiming the authority of the Church. He secretly continued to work as a priest, risking a possible death penalty. One of his allies in this work was the Venerable Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de Lamourous (1754–1836), whom he assisted in founding Bordeaux's Miséricorde for "fallen women." In 1795, he accepting responsibility for supervising the reconciliation of Bordeaux priests who had taken the constitutional oath but wanted to return to the Church; fifty such priests completed their reconciliation with Chaminade's help. He fled Bordeaux in 1797, under the reign of the Directorate, and he lived in Zaragoza, Spain, for three years. There, he visited the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar and formed a strong devotion to Mary; he decided to build an organization of laypeople and religious in her name.
When he returned to Bordeaux in November 1801, he reestablished the Marian Sodality, which he hoped would promote the desecularization of France by offering "the spectacle of a people of saints". The sodality spread to other cities, and the Vatican recognized his efforts by appointing him Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Bazas and, in 1801, naming him Missionary Apostolic.
Some sodalisits wanted to make a more complete commitment to the Church, so Chaminade, along with the Ven. Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon (1789–1828), founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate in Agen in 1816. A year later, he founded the Society of Mary at Bordeaux. Both orders devoted themselves to teaching. Chaminade sought to establish a network of schools to train Catholic teachers, but this effort was checked by the 1830 Revolution. However, both of Chaminade's orders continued to grow: the Daughters of Mary founded schools in south-western France to educate rural women and the Society of Mary exapanded in France, Switzerland (1839) and the United States of America (1849). Chaminade died quietly, surrounded by members of the Society, in Bordeaux in 1850.