Continuing the Work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle
As a member of the Saint Mary's University of Minnesota community, you are part of the great international Lasallian network.
This group of educational institutions distributed around the world is dedicated to quality student-centered education and learning in the Lasallian Catholic tradition. Here, people are compassionate in their dealings with others, dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, and appreciative of art and culture.
Continuing the Spiritual and Pedagogical Insights
Saint Mary's, as a Lasallian Catholic institution, traces its origins to a priest and educational innovator of 17th century France, Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Born in 1651, De La Salle began a new system of Christian schools in which the teachers assist parents in the educational, ethical, and religious formation of their children. To continue his vision, John Baptist de La Salle founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (known today as the De La Salle Christian Brothers). In Latin, the group's name is Fratres Scholarum Christianarum, the familiar "FSC" after a Brother's name. The spiritual and pedagogical insights of Saint John Baptist de La Salle are the foundations of the modern Lasallian community.
The Lasallian Community is Alive and Well
Today, the Lasallian community, the ongoing home of De La Salle's tradition and spirit, is alive and functioning in 80 countries of the world and in more than 1,100 educational institutions. Over 3,000 De La Salle Christian Brothers, along with 90,000 Lasallian lay colleagues, serve over a million students and their families worldwide. Here in the United States there are more than 100 Lasallian educational institutions. Saint Mary's is one of six Lasallian colleges and universities in the United States.
Who Was John Baptist de La Salle?
John Baptist de La Salle was born on April 30, 1651, in Rheims, France. The son of aristocratic parents, La Salle had the opportunity for an excellent education and went on to be ordained a priest, fully intending to work among the wealthy people of his area throughout his career. Unexpectedly, La Salle's life changed dramatically. A promise to a dying friend to assist a group of Sisters in their work with orphan girls brought La Salle to education. Further assistance to a friend starting a school for poor boys in Rheims solidified his true vocation as an educator, an endeavor which would consume his entire life.
By 1684, having given up his personal wealth and title in society, La Salle brought a group of schoolmasters together as the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The Institute was soon after recognized as an official Congregation of Religious in the Roman Catholic Church. The Congregation's primary purpose was to serve the educational needs of society, particularly among the poor.
La Salle and his Brothers took up the cause of education vigorously. In addition to the founding of schools in 22 cities by the time of his death in 1719, La Salle contributed significantly to the entire field of education through his writings and innovative methodology. In 1900, John Baptist de La Salle was declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Fifty years later, Pope Pius XII declared John Baptist de La Salle the Patron Saint of Teachers. The foundation of the Lasallian educational tradition can be found in the vision and achievement of De La Salle who realized that:
"... not only is God so good as to have created us, but God desires all of us to come to the knowledge of the truth."
The Lasallian tradition emphasizes the fact that all people, especially the young, have an inherent dignity which comes from their being created in the image of God. For Lasallian educators, education is a means of developing this dignity for the well-being of each student as well as for the well-being of our society. This is the heart of the Lasallian educational tradition.
"To touch the hearts of your pupils and to inspire them with the Christian spirit is the greatest miracle you can perform, and one which God expects of you."
—Saint John Baptist de La Salle
Today, the work of Saint La Salle is continued by the Christian Brothers and by dedicated lay men and women and associated religious priests who bring a Lasallian distinctiveness to myriad of educational works in over 80 countries throughout the world.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, Pray for Us!
Live Jesus in Our Hearts, Forever!