The Lasallian Education Tradition at Saint Mary’s
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.
The Lasallian educational tradition has been a distinguishing characteristic of Saint Mary’s since 1933, when the Brothers assumed sponsorship of the university, then college.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.’ ”
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 competed in his 40th American Birkebeiner ski race. He is one of an elite group of 35 people who get to start the race.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Current role: Director of Vocation Ministry, Christian Brothers of the Midwest
Former roles: Visitor and Auxiliary Visitor (Provincial) of the Midwest District; President of San Miguel Middle School; Director of Campus Ministry and adjunct professor, Saint Mary’s University; high school teacher and campus minister
Years as a DLS Christian Brother: 40
Years at Saint Mary’s: 7 (1992-99); arrived back on campus July 1, 2020.
Why he became a Brother: “I was already a high school teacher, and when I learned about the Brothers and their ministry as teachers, especially with their well-articulated spirituality of education, it seemed like a good fit. And indeed, it was —and is! Simply put, brotherhood is my path to God.”
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.’ ”
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 Jack Curran, FSC, Ph.D.
Brother Thomas Johnson, FSC
Brother Michael J. McGinniss, FSC, Ph.D.
Brother Michael O’Hern, 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
Bishop John Quinn, AFSC ’21, D.D.