The commitment of the De La Salle brothers and their lay partners throughout the country and the world to education has been celebrated with a special Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Representatives from the many Lasallian schools in the Sydney archdiocese and Parramatta and Bathurst dioceses packed the cathedral to mark the 300th anniversary of the death of the teaching congregation’s founder. Sydney Bishop Richard Umbers presided over the Mass which was concelebrated by Sydney Bishop Terry Brady, Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long, Bathurst Bishop Michael McKenna and other clergy.
St John Baptist de La Salle established the Institute of religious brothers in France, in 1680, to provide quality education for poor children. He was canonised in 1900 and declared patron of teachers in 1950.
“A good teacher makes such a difference in their own schools, to so many hundreds and thousands of young people whose hands are grounded on Christian hope,” said Bishop Umbers in his homily.
Australian De La Salle provincial Brother David Hawke said the Mass was a beautiful expression of Lasallian solidarity between the schools present in the three dioceses.
“The choir in particular, facilitated by Catholic Schools Performing Arts Sydney, was magnificent,” he said.
The community is also promoting Lasallian vocations this year, with a special emphasis on the vocation to religious life, he added. “Our mission is just as important now as when St John de La Salle started the first Christian schools in the 1700s,” he said.
The Principal of La Salle Catholic College in Bankstown, Michael Egan, said the original charism is very much alive in the schools and is lived out in different ways.
“The theme for this year is ‘One life, one commitment’ which really encompasses the various things we are trying to do not only in the schools but in twinning operations throughout our Lasallian district which includes Pakistan and Papua New Guinea,” he said. “Our school has a relationship with a school in Faisalabad and we support staff and students there with fundraising.”
Pope Francis recently praised St John Baptist de La Salle as “a pioneer in the field of education, who created an innovative education system for his time”.
“He gave life to a community of lay people to carry out his ideal, and was certain that the Church cannot remain a stranger to the social contradictions of its times,” he said.
The institute was established in Australia in 1906 and today there are 80 brothers joined by lay partners and volunteers committed to the Lasallian mission of bringing human and Christian education to young people and the poor. Worldwide there are more than 5000 brothers and many thousands of lay partners present in more than 80 countries.
Provincial marks 50
The local provincial of the De La Salle Brothers Brother David Hawke has marked 50 years of religious life.
Brother David entered the teaching congregation in 1969, inspired by the brothers who first taught him at De La Salle College, Mangere East in Auckland. He is the provincial of the district of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.
His most challenging assignment was as delegate of the Brother Superior general for the delegations of India, Thailand, Pakistan and Japan. “Not only was it a challenge time-wise but also trying to understand and be empathetic to the culture of the Institute in each place,” he said.
Apart from the example of his parents Br David said the support of the brothers in the various communities where he has lived and their presence with him in prayer have “shaped and sustained” him.