Founder of Catholic Schools – Saint John de la Salle

John Baptist de la Salle was born in France on April 30, 1651. He was oldest of ten children. He studied in Paris.  He is known for his work educating poor children.

La Salle devoted his life to God when he was eleven. He attended college and earned a Master of Arts degree before entering the seminary to become a priest. A seminary is a school to prepare a man to become a priest, minister or rabbi. He had to leave the seminary for a time when his parents died to take care of his siblings. He eventually returned and was ordained a priest in 1678. Two years later he also earned a Doctorate of Theology degree.

At the time education in France was only for the nobles and wealthy. La Salle changed that. He was chaplain to a group of Sisters who were caring for and educating poor girls He met the French educator Adrian Nyel. With his help, and a financial gift from a wealthy benefactor he began a school for poor boys. He became convinced this was God’s purpose for him. He also discovered that even the teachers needed inspiration and instruction on how to teach.

La Salle founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This was the first Catholic teaching religious institute which did not include any priests. It grew quickly and soon parish priests were sending young men to the Institute so they could return and be schoolmasters in their own villages.He wrote the “Manual for Christian Schools” which included original and practical ideas for education. He divided students into classes, according to their age and abilities. He taught in French for the first time, instead of in Latin. His curriculum included ethics, literature, physics, philosophy, and mathematics.

While living in exile in France, King James II of England urged La Salle to found a school for Irish boys living in France as well. There were about 50 boys at this school.  He began another school which provided technical education with religious teachings.

Father La Salle died on April 7, 1719.  His Institute continued to grow until the French Revolution when it suffered great losses.  In 1799, the community grew and expanded steadily expanded into Europe, England, Ireland, North and South America and Australia.

He was make a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.  He considered the founder of Catholic Schools and is the patron saint of teachers.

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