On April 30th, the Institute celebrates the 360th anniversary of the birth of St. John Baptist de La Salle. During the Superior General’s recent visit to the District, we visited the chapel at Bishop Kelley, where Bro. Alvaro was shown this statue:
How it came to Bishop Kelley is a fascinating story. Thanks to Betty O’Connor at Kelley for sharing this narrative:
An 1872 statue of St. John Baptist de La Salle found its way “home” to Bishop Kelley’s De La Salle Chapel in 2005. It was in an antique shop window in Dallas with a sign around the neck, “We don’t know who this is, but we think it is about 150 years old.” Kelley’s Christian Service Coordinator, Connie Sullivan, and her husband Tim, were walking by the shop and immediately recognized the statue. Alan Weyland began to research its origin. Kelley faculty member, Marianne Stich, had just been to Rome, so she knew exactly who could check the authenticity. Brother Christian Lemaire of Reims, France provided the answers.
The sculptor, Alexandre Oliva (1823-1890), completed the original 9-foot statue of St. John Baptist de La Salle in 1862. It was made of plaster and covered in bronze. He depicted LaSalle with his head slightly bent in an attitude of reflection and prayer. LaSalle’s left hand holds a document that reads: Rules and Constitutions of the Christian Schools. The original statue is located in the Provincial House’s main entrance in Lembecq, France. By 1872, Oliva had created 400 small copies to be placed in the main schools of the Institute of Christian Brothers.
With this information, Alan Weyland and Gary Oberste made a road trip to Dallas. They negotiated with the antique dealer and loaded the statue in the car to “come home.” The statue was hidden until a special unveiling could take place. In January of 2005, the Midwest District Brothers of the Christian Schools were inducted into the Bishop Kelley Hall of Fame. Brother Norman McCarthy, Brother Richard Merkel, and Brother Chris Baker hosted Kelley’s first principal, Brother Alfred Marshall, as well as Brother Frank Carr, Brother Patrick O’Brien, Brother Chuck Gregor, and former principals Brother Larry Humphrey and Brother David Poos for the induction. The statue was unveiled as a surprise and as a symbol of the Christian Brothers’ legacy of inspiration, leadership and service to Bishop Kelley High School.