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The Brothers of the Christian School

 

The Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian School, better known in Hong Kong as the De La Salle Brothers, was founded by a French priest, St. John Baptist de la Salle, who lived from 1651 to 1719.

However, he was adamant that no one from his newly founded congregation would ever be ordained a priest, as he believed that this would distract them from their primary vocation, teaching; and he firmly believed that this vocation could lead them to an authentic sanctity.

His motto for the brothers was to first of all be brothers to each other and then to the students confided to their care. Being a brother was a profession, as well as a vocation.

However, taking young boys off the streets and educating them was seen as a politically destabilising force by the powers-that-were in the France of his day.

Like other founders of congregations who sought to bring education to the poor, Father de la Salle faced opposition at both Church and state levels.

 He fought tirelessly and hard, ultimately winning out and gaining formal approval from Pope Benedict XIII in 1725 for his new congregation.

However, from the establishment of his first schools in the north of France in the 1680s, this had been a long road to tread. 

But the brothers were popular, as well as controversial, as they taught in French, maintained good discipline, taught religion systematically and provided good, quality education. By 1702 they also had a school in Rome.

They were suppressed in France during the French Revolution (1792 to 1805) and officially, only a small group in the Papal States and in Rome continued to exist. However, the congregation grew at an amazing rate when the suppression was lifted and numbered 14,631 by 1900.

The brothers first arrived in Asia in 1852 and began schools in Malaya and Singapore, later expanding into India, Burma, Vietnam, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Cambodia, The Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Pakistan and Indonesia; as well as a short, but turbulent period in Wuhan, China, from 1936 to 1948.