St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

St. Jean-Baptiste de la Salle (John Baptist de La Salle) (April 30, 1651 in Reims – April 7, 1719 in Saint-Yon, Rouen on Good Friday) was a French priest, educational reformer, and founder of international educational movement who spent over forty years of his life dedicated to education for the children of the poor. In the process, he standardized educational practices throughout France, wrote inspirational meditations on the ministry of teaching (along with catechisms, politeness texts, and other resources for teachers and students), and became the catalyst and resource for many other religious congregations dedicated to education that were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

When he was just 16 years-old, he was appointed as canon of the Reims cathedral. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 27. Two years later he received a doctorate in theology. He would later leave his position as canon priest at Reims and found a religious community devoted to teaching, distributing his fortune to the poor during a particularly harsh winter.

In 1680 La Salle became involved in an educational venture that led to the founding of a new order, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers, or, most commonly, the Christian Brothers, often confused with a different order of the same name founded by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice of Ireland.

De La Salle became involved in education step-by-step, without really meaning to do so. What began as a charitable effort to help a committed educator of the poor, Adrian Nyel, organize a group of marginally competent teachers in De La Salle”s hometown gradually became his life”s work, as, according to his own words, one decision led to another until he found himself doing something that he had never anticipated. De La Salle wrote: I had imagined that the care which I assumed of the schools and the masters would amount only to a marginal involvement committing me to no more than providing for the subsistence of the masters and assuring that they acquitted themselves of their tasks with piety and devotedness . . . Indeed