WHO FOUNDED THE DE LA SALLE BROTHERS?
The extraordinary story of the Brothers began with the founder John Baptist de La Salle. Born into a life of privilege in Rheims, France, in 1651, the life of this young priest took a series of unexpected turns when he began helping a local teacher run a charity school for the poor. What began as a generous effort to help gradually became his life’s work.
WHAT DID DE LA SALLE DO?
He gathered a group of young, unmarried men to help him provide poor children with a Christian education. He renounced his title and considerable wealth and moved in with these men, to form the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools. These schoolmasters came to be known as Brothers, because they were ‘brotherly’ not only to each other, but also older ‘brothers’ to the students whom they taught.
THE FIRST DE LA SALLE BROTHERS SCHOOLS
De La Salle’s ‘Christian schools’ were free and open to all, especially the poor. The school’s atmosphere of firmness and kindness instilled a sense of purpose into the lives of young people used to roaming the streets. De La Salle emphasised discipline and order, civility, civics and citizenship in the Lasallian schools both for employment in early industrial France but also for salvation.
A LEGACY OF INNOVATIONS
De La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France that featured instruction in the native language, students grouped according to ability and achievement, integration of religious instruction with secular subjects, well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission, and the involvement of parents.
In addition, De La Salle developed programs for training lay teachers, Sunday courses for working young men, and one of the first institutions in France for the care of troubled youths. He died on Good Friday at Saint Yon near Rouen on April 7, 1719, only weeks before his sixty-eighth birthday. At the time of his death there were 100 Brothers in 22 schools, teaching 5000 students throughout France.
Today globally there are currently over 4800 Brothers and thousands of Partners in 80 countries around the world in a diverse range of roles. They minister to more than 900,000 young people.