More than 300 Years of Lasallian Schools
I have had the privilege of working in a Lasallian high school for 8 years. During that time, I have learned much about Saint John Baptist de la Salle. Truth be told, I did not know much about Saint John Baptist de la Salle before teaching here. On this Religious Brothers Day, I’d like to offer a few reflections.
It is the case the primary way to learn a charism is to see it lived out, and I have known more than a few of the Christian Brothers. At the risk of forgetting some, I will not list them. (I have had public moments where I did forget some. Always a danger.) But I did learn a lot from them.
Probably more than anything else, I learned that the brothers are quite committed to their work, willing to partner with lay people, and have, like Saint John Baptist de la Salle, a vision for the most marginalized and poor. From the first time De La Salle recognized that young boys were not being educated, he was moved with compassion to work for the salvation, both spiritually and in all other aspects of life.
In many ways the best innovations and practices in education today can be traced back to Saint John Baptist de la Salle. Given the deep poverty of the day, and the needs of society, one can see how it is the God raised up Saint John Baptist de la Salle to meet the needs of the society.
Following in the spirit of the founder, the Christian Brothers worked hard to be innovative in their times too. Less than 100 years after the death of their founder, the Christian Brothers made their way with schools to the relatively young country of the United States. When it became clear that the lack of learning Latin in the curriculum posed a problem in the United States, the brothers innovated.
Consider that at one time the charging of tuition was not allowed. How to provide for the brothers basic needs was a challenge. The brothers, like so many other religious, came to the New World at a time when it was not so easy. Anti-Catholic bias made working here challenging. With an immigrant population not always welcomed by the rest of the population, the brothers were working with students not unlike those in France, cast aside.
But the brothers generously answered the call by God. They sacrificed. They worked for little compensation. And while they may be fewer in number today, they are still doing the much-needed ministry to which they have been called to by God. Like countless other ministries of the Christian Brothers Schools, Christian Brothers College High School extends deep appreciation to the Brothers for a debt of service it can never repay.
Below is a short description of Christian Brothers who served at Christian Brothers College High School.
- Outside the gym, you’ll notice the winners of the Brother Wilfred Weil Award. In the history of CBC, there is perhaps no more dedicated supporter of CBC athletics.
- The senior hallway of the academic wing bears the name of Brother Lawrence Humphrey. Brother Larry was the President who oversaw the move out to our current campus in 2003, and in my office I have a picture of Brother Larry handing me my diploma at Commencement back in 2007. Brother Larry recently celebrated 50 years as a Brother and currently serves as President of St. Joseph’s International School in Singapore.
- The Lasallian Legacy Wall outside the CLC on the second floor displays the names of Brothers and partners who have made outstanding contributions to CBC. This includes one of my favorite characters, Brother Linus Albert, who was known for his great love for students, and especially student athletes. I’m particularly fond of one story from an alumnus in the 20s or 30s who fell while pole vaulting at practice when his pole snapped. He thought he was going to get in trouble for breaking it, but Brother Linus appeared out of nowhere to check on him, and the alumnus recalls that Brother “appeared to be more angry at the pole.”
- Our Advisory communities bear the names of: Brother Gelisaire, one of the first three Christian Brothers to arrive in St. Louis in 1849; Brother Justinus Elzear, who saw an opportunity to keep a CBC education affordable during the Great Depression by instituting the JROTC program that would remain in place for 59 years, and would be mandatory until Brother Augustine Kossuth decided otherwise (one could make the case that each of these decisions, in its own time, saved the school); Brother Mario Stockhausen and Brother Dan McEnery, both of whom are remembered as exemplary role models and caring “older brothers” to so many CBC students that they supported.
- Finally, outside our Chapel in the main entryway, we have a relief depicting, on the left side, the Saints of the Institute. De La Salle is at the center of that panel, and to his left are 9 of the 165 Christian Brothers who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War. These Brothers, like those martyred during the French Revolution before them, refused to abandon their work of Christian Education, and they paid for this with their lives.
If you have a moment today, please join me in offering a brief prayer of Thanksgiving for the contributions of these Brothers, and that their work of bringing salvation through Christian education can endure for centuries to come. Maybe also say a quick prayer for more young men—perhaps even a few Cadets—to consider a vocation to serve God and humanity as a teaching Brother.
On the friar, you can listen to our homilies (based on the readings of the day) and reflections. You can also ask us to pray for you or to pray for others. You can subscribe to our website to be informed whenever we publish an update.