Statue holding a book

The Lasallian Education Tradition at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

The schools of the De La Salle Christian Brothers are sacred places — an extension of God’s care for students — where the role of the teacher is seen as a vocation, a spiritual calling from God. 

Using the language of Saint Paul, De La Salle instructs the Brothers to see themselves as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. He tells the Brothers to adore God in their students, and urges them to write daily on their students’ hearts a letter dictated by God’s Holy Spirit. The Brothers’ schools are places where the relationship between teachers and students is highlighted, where teachers dedicated to their students teach first by example, where the Word of God enlightens and deepens human experience, and where students encounter God in the person of their teachers. It is not without reason that in 1950 the Church named Saint John Baptist de La Salle Patron of Teachers.

Beginning with elementary education, the Brothers gradually developed secondary schools, polytechnic institutions, colleges and universities. In the 19th century, the Brothers opened schools in the Middle East, Asia, Canada and the United States, so their work now continues in more than 83 countries. The worldwide educational mission of the Brothers is a compelling one, and, in the 20th century, laymen and women — with backgrounds as diverse as our students — have chosen to partner with and share the ministry of the Brothers. Today they number more than 89,000.

As a Lasallian collegiate institution, Saint Mary’s begins with a sense of community among students, professors, and staff, since all join together to teach and to learn. This community comes together from a variety of faith traditions, ethnicities, and social and economic backgrounds. It engages in an educational adventure that permeates the entire collegiate environment and is identified by mutual respect and understanding, openness of mind in dialogue, eagerness to find the truth, and acceptance of others with both their uniqueness and limitations. Such a community nurtures an engagement in intellectual growth, a spirit of faith and service to others, an active concern for justice, and sensitivity to the dignity of the human person.

The Brothers’ Declaration frames the Lasallian mission in this way: it “awakens in students a serious attitude toward life and the conviction of the greatness of human destiny; it makes it possible for them, with intellectual honesty and responsibility, to exercise the autonomy of personal thought; it helps them use their liberty to overcome their own prejudices, preconceived ideas and social pressures, as well as the pressures that come from disintegration within the human person, it disposes them to use their intelligence and their training in the service of their neighbors; it opens them to others; it teaches them how to listen and to try to understand, to trust, and to love; it instills in them a sense of trustworthiness, brotherhood [and sisterhood], and justice; it opens them to the world and to life, to the wonder and beauty of nature, to the diversity and richness of art, to the conquests of science and technology, to a deep thought and reflection, to the varieties of civilizations, to the joys of friendship and of giving themselves to others.” [Declaration VI:41] In all these ways and more, the Lasallian mission of the Brothers and those who join with them brings them and their students face to face with the God who creates, loves, and saves them.

The Lasallian educational tradition is a distinguishing characteristic of Saint Mary’s. In 1680, Saint John Baptist de La Salle created a new religious community in his native France that he and his first followers called “The Brothers of the Christian Schools.” This name emphasized that the foundation of their educational work was fraternal, Christian, and that it focused on schools. De La Salle was acutely aware of the condition of children from poor and working-class families, so he and the Brothers opened gratuitous schools where students received a Christian and human education, enlightening their minds and hearts and thereby leading them to salvation while becoming productive members of society.

Lasallian educators embrace four characteristics gleaned from De La Salle’s writings: They view their teaching ministry as a call from God; they see themselves as coworkers with God; they have a special concern for the instruction of the poor; and they are guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They also appreciate De La Salle’s foundational principles and spirituality, and they are gratified by developments that have furthered God’s educational work in many places, on many levels and in many types of education. They look to a future in which students are empowered by astonishing advances in education, in arts and technology, in global awareness and in a fuller understanding of human destiny as given to us by the revelation and love of Jesus Christ.

De La Salle Christian Brothers at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Brother Roger Betzold, FSC ’71

Current role: He is working half time with the First Generation Initiative and Athletics.

Former roles: He has worked 38 years as a Catholic school principal in Fargo, N.D.; Kansas City, Mo.; Dyersville, Iowa; Oshkosh, Wis.; Manitowoc, Wis.; Stevens Point, Wis., and Chippewa Falls, Wis., and the past three years an elementary principal in Caledonia, Minn.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 52 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: He has lived at Saint Mary’s for 3 ½ years (while working in Caledonia), even though he’s only been on staff this past year.

Why he became a Brother: “I thought about being a priest for many years and then went to a De La Salle Christian Brother high school and felt the Lord was leading me toward education and not parish ministry. I was inspired by the Brothers I was taught by. I was inspired by their community and spirit so I made the decision to be a Brother instead of a priest, and that has been a very good life choice.”

Brother Francis Carr, FSC ’66

Current role: Director for mission, Saint Mary’s Press and also athletic liaison

Former roles: Provincial/visitor of the Midwest District of the Christian Brothers. 10 years before that he was assistant provincial and 5½ years before that served on staff at Saint Mary’s Press in Marketing and HR. Previously, he worked at Hill Murray High School in St. Paul for 19 years as a teacher, assistant professor, and athletic director.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 56 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: Besides being here as an undergraduate, he’s been on campus since 2011 (this time). He was also here while he worked at Saint Mary’s Press from 1985 to 1991.

Why he became a Brother: “I wanted to be a teacher. I admired the Brothers at my school and got to know them, and my Dad finally said ‘OK’ when I asked him about the fifth time. First, he said, ‘No.’ ” 

Brother Pat Conway, FSC ’75, M’80, Ed.D.

Current role: Assistant professor in Interdisciplinary Studies and Education

Former roles: Vice president for Student Life, Residence Hall director, and campus minister

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: He joined the Candidacy in 1973 and professed his vows in 1977.

Years at Saint Mary’s: Since 1991 (minus two years to work on his doctorate and another six years as a member of the Midwest District Provincial Visitor's Team).

Why he became a Brother: “While attending the University of St. Thomas, I worked two jobs: one as a waiter in a rather elite restaurant in the evenings, and the other as a chaperone on a school bus. We would pick up students in low-income housing projects and bring them to a school several miles from their homes. I also tutored many of these students between my college classes at St. Thomas. It was 1971, and the Supreme Court ruled that in order to achieve racial balance, busing would be one way to achieve this. These two experiences of serving the wealthy in the evenings and the children living on the margins during the day caused me to reflect on who and what De La Salle stood for.  And although I had the De La Salle Christian Brothers in high school, it didn't dawn on me until later in my college career that the Lasallian mission of helping break the cycle of poverty through education was a path I wanted to pursue.” 

Brother John Grover, FSC ’65

Current role: Environmental Awareness Center Coordinator

Former role: Administrative computing, iT. He started the data processing department at Saint Mary’s when he finished school, which changed into the computer department and then into iT. He was in charge of the department its first 35 years. He has also taken care of the environmental awareness center for the past 45 years as a volunteer. He also works with the ski club.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 58 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: 58 years

Why did he become a Brother: “Something inside. I had nuns all through high school and admired their example. There were no Brothers in North Dakota. I enjoy being with the students.”

Other interesting fact: In 2018, Brother will compete in his 40th American Birkefeiner ski race.  He is one of an elite group of 35 people who get to start the race.

Brother Stephen W. Markham, FSC ’66

Current role: Director of Christian Brother contacts

Former roles: Vice president for Student Development at Saint Mary’s; director of student Brothers at Saint Mary’s; and auxiliary visitor for the Winona District. Also pastoral administrator for Lasalle Pastorate in Dubuque, Iowa; assistant principal at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville, Iowa; and part of the founding faculty of Grace High School (now Totino Grace)
Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 56 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: 20 years. From 1971-1976, he was the director of student Brothers. Then, he was the vice president for student development from 1986-1991, and he belonged to the community on campus while serving as director of vocations and formations for the last couple of years.

Why he became a Brother: “My most vivid memory is I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I was impressed with the Franciscan Sisters who ran the Catholic school in Holy Cross, Iowa. I recall finding an ad in the paper, and I followed up on the ad and joined the Brothers 12 days after graduating from high school.”

Brother Arnold McMullen, FSC ’53

Former roles: Taught biology, math, religion, and computer science from 1953 to 1997 at Saint Mary’s. Also taught in Memphis; Chicago; Jefferson City, Mo.; four schools in suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Winona.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 69 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: 30 years

Why he became a Brother:  “God called me. I was at De La Salle Minneapolis when I started. I was a juniorate as a freshman in high school (a special high school set up for kids who might want to be a Brother). When I got there, there were 32 in my class from all over the Midwest. I was 18 when I became a Brother.”

Brother An Pham, FSC

Current role: He is studying English at Saint Mary’s.

Former role: He taught in Vietnam.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: About 10 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: Three months

Why did he became a Brother: “I decided to become a Brother because I love teaching and encouraging children to be good.”

Brother Roderick Robertson, FSC ’63

Former roles: Professor of Art and Design

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 58 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: He started in 1973. Other than four years off (two years off to Mexico for a retreat and two years of graduate school), he never left. He retired in 2015.

Why he become a Brother: “I thought I could help. I liked their mission and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with a Catholic organization and have personal and direct contact with students.”

Brother A. Stephen Rusyn, FSC, Ph.D.

Current role: English professor at Saint Mary’s

Former role: Before this year he had taught or been an administrator in four high schools, and he had taught classes in four colleges or universities. “The Christian Brother's teaching vocation transcends geographical place,” he said. He came to Saint Mary’s University from Salve Regina University in 1988, and has had several roles here including executive assistant to the president; (first) dean of business, computer science, and mass communication; associate dean of humanities; and vice president of Student Life.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 62

Years at Saint Mary’s: 25

Why he became a Brother: “I joined the De La Salle Christian Brothers after I experienced them as my teachers in a Catholic high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1953; the Brothers' way of living and teaching was what I wanted to be a part of.

Brother Robert Smith, FSC ’76, Ph.D.

Current role: Senior vice president for presidential initiatives and special adviser to the president; most recently, chief academic officer and vice president of the Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs

Former roles: Teacher, theology chair, associate dean of Education/Nairobi, vice president for Mission, and director of Faculty Development at Saint Mary’s

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 40 years

Years at Saint Mary’s: More or less 25 of the past 40 years. Away for Ph.D. studies, and time in Kenya (for Saint Mary’s) and also Bethlehem.

Why he became a Brother:  “To work with/teach young people and help ‘kids.’ ”

Brother Damessonou (Guillaume) Yame, FSC

Current role: He is studying for his M.A. in Lasallian Leadership and in Education at Saint Mary’s and is also helping the Campus Ministry Office.

Former role: Previously he taught French, worked as a campus minister, and was bursar of the province in Togo, Africa.

Years as a DLS Christian Brother: Since 2009 (9 years)

Years at Saint Mary’s: Since 2016 (2 years)

Why did he become a Brother: “I wanted to be a light for young people who do not have a chance to go to school, like my mother. I thought by joining the De La Salle Christian Brothers, I would be able to teach and change this kind of situation in my area and around the world.”

President Emeriti of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Brother Louis DeThomasis, FSC, Ph.D.
Brother William Mann, FSC, D.Div.

Christian Brothers who serve as members of the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Board of Trustees

Brother Robert Bimonte, FSC
Brother Kevin Convey, FSC, Ed.D.
Brother Jack Curran, FSC, Ph.D.
Brother Thomas Johnson, FSC
Brother Michael J. McGinniss, FSC, Ph.D.
Brother Michael O’Hern, FSC
Brother David Poos, FSC
Brother Michael Fehrenbach, FSC

Local Affiliated Members of the Christian Brothers

Dr. Mary Catherine Fox, AFSC ’75, Ph.D.
Anthony Piscitiello, AFSC ’69, M’82
The Rev. Robert Stamchror, AFSC ’57