The Brothers of the Christian Schools
De La Salle was born on April 30, 1651 in Reims, France and died on April 7, 1719. His faith and zeal inspired a modest revolution in Christian education in his day and continues to stir the hearts of educators everywhere. De La Salle was canonized a saint on May 24, 1900 and proclaimed patron of all teachers on May 15, 1950.
In March 1679, a chance encounter with Adrien Nyel, a layman and an administrator of social services for the poor, met the young priest at the doorway of a convent the two men happened to be visiting. De La Salle was recruited by Nyel to assist with the opening of a parish school for poor boys. It was a reluctant first step that led De La Salle to founding many more schools for poor boys and a religious community of lay teachers -men he called “Brothers”- to conduct those schools.
Led by God from one commitment to another, De La Salle gradually found himself immersed in the world of the poor and their desperate need for education. Challenged by his Brothers to rely on Providence, he resigned his canonry in Reims and, over the next 30 years, established a wide array of institutions to meet the needs of the poor in France. De La Salle was regarded as an educational innovator because of his insistence that children be taught practical subjects and religion in their native tongue rather than Latin, and because of his use of the simultaneous method of instruction in lieu of private tutorials. He was, above all, a visionary who considered schools as communities of faith.
The Christian Brothers of the Midwest District
The Christian Brothers of the Midwest District is one of four districts within the RELAN Region, with its provincial headquarters in Burr Ridge, IL. The Brothers and their colleagues sponsor universities, high schools, middle schools, retreat centers and a variety of other educational ministries in the Midwest District.
The first attempt to establish Lasallian education in the Mississippi Valley ocurred in 1819 at St. Genevieve, Missouri. This establishment lasted only 3 years. Twenty three years later, negotiations for the services of the Christian Brothers in St. Louis were begun through the aid of Father John Timon, Provincial of the Vincentians. He went to Montreal to ask Brother Aidant, Provincial of the Brothers in Canada and the United States, for six Brothers to teach in St. Louis, but Brother Aidant was unable to send any Brothers. This did not stop Father Timon. In 1845 he went to France to request of Brother Philip, Superior General, that he send Brothers to teach in St. Louis. Brother Philip promised to send five Brothers. On August 28, 1849 three Brothers arrived in St. Louis and on September 11, 1849 they began teaching class in the residence just west of the old Cathedral.