De La Salle Holy Cross College
The de La Salle Brothers
The de La Salle Brothers
The de La Salle Brothers were founded by John Baptist de La Salle in 1680 in Rheims, France, in answer to the serious need for Christian education of the children of the poor and working-class families. These children had nowhere to turn to for knowledge, training in a trade, or a Christian upbringing. John Baptist de La Salle was convinced that Christian Schools were the solution. 17th Century France was a very different place to what the so-called free world is today. Only the privileged were educated and in a curriculum that suited the privileged.
De La Salle was a priest who came from an upper class family connected with the nobility – at a time when class distinction was everything. At the age of 29 he set about changing the structures around him. Moved by the plight of the poor he determined to put his own talents, resources and advanced education at the service of the street children of Rheims. He founded his first school which was open and free to all.
He knew that only total commitment would achieve what he wanted to do. To be more effective, he abandoned his family home, renounced his wealth and his position as Canon of the Rheims Cathedral and went to live with the small group of lay teachers who worked in the schools - and so formed the community that became known as the de La Salle Brothers. His endeavours met with opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life – “lay religious” Brothers, not clerics.
From the beginning, de La Salle insisted that the Brothers, (as they began to call themselves), would cultivate two essential spirits: a spirit of faith in God’s continuing presence and support, and a spirit of zeal for the care and education of the young people entrusted to them. The educational establishment resented his innovative methods and his insistence on free schools for all - regardless of whether students could afford to pay or not.
John Baptist de La Salle created an entirely new educational system. Many of the methods he designed are still in use today, though few people realise that they originated with this French priest living in the last part of the 17th century. De La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France which introduced the simultaneous classroom teaching method; featured instructions in the vernacular, rather than Latin; grouped students according to ability and achievement; integrated religious instruction with secular subjects; supplied well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission and encouraged the involvement of parents. In addition de La Salle pioneered programmes for training lay teachers, Sunday courses for young working men and one of the first institutions in France for the care of delinquents.
John Baptist de La Salle and his Brothers revolutionised education by making it available to the poorest French children. It was on their account and because of them that the youth of France were able to rise out of the misery to which society had condemned them.
The work begun by John Baptist de La Salle spread all over the world and is continued today by the Brothers and their Associates who are guided by his spiritual ideas in their educational work aimed at building the world of the future.
John Baptist de La Salle died on 7th April 1719. He was canonised on 24th May 1900 and proclaimed Patron Saint of Teachers on 15th May 1950.
Today there are 5,525 Brothers and 80,000 lay colleagues worldwide, ministering to over 900,000 young people in 1,082 educational centres in 83 countries on six continents.
“Live Jesus in our Hearts”
The Holy Cross Sisters
The Holy Cross Sisters
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross was founded in 1844 in Menzingen, Switzerland. The purpose of the Congregation was the development of the whole person through education. Father Theodosius, the founder, made study possible for Maria Anna (Mother Bernarda) and he nurtured in her a vision for the future. The foundress, Mother Bernarda Heimgartner, felt called to a new form of religious life in Switzerland, to a life among the people.
Mother Bernarda was a deeply religious woman. Inspired by the Enlightenment of the 19th century, she was convinced that education could set free the positive energies in human beings for a Gospel way of life. The great desire of Mother Bernarda was to promote a comprehensive education and formation of the person. The founding sisters sought to transform society by means of education and the Gospel. They made a contribution to the improved standing of women and helped raise the standard of education in their society.
Mother Bernarda encountered God in the world and through the holistic education of youth she endeavoured to permeate society with the spirit of the Gospel. She believed in the human and faith potential of young people, in the goodness of people and to draw out and develop this life. At the age of 22 Mother Bernarda took responsibility for the steadily growing community of sisters. She loved the sisters and was very sensitive to the needs of each of them. In difficulties and dissensions she gave the sisters a sense of security through her clear orientation. At the same time she respected each one's decision made according to her conscience.
God called Mother Bernarda and two companions to leave their homes for a life of friendship with Him. They became pilgrims in the world, committed to promoting the mission of God.
In order to enable them to do their training as teaching sisters, Maria Anna and her two companions left their home-country at an early age, for political reasons. Because of the political upheaval in their own country they could only undertake their training outside Switzerland. After their First Profession in Altdorf the three young sisters moved to Menzingen to open a school. In the years to come the service to the mission required the sisters to be frequently moving on and this mostly by foot.
Between 1844 and 1863 Mother Bernarda opened 59 schools and children’s homes.
The Holy Cross charism encompasses the evangelisation of youth through the apostolate of education. The purpose of their Mission is the transformation of society with the Gospel. They work to set the positive energies in human persons free for a Gospel way of life. They are a Community of Sisters gathered under the Cross where new life emerges, whose way to God is made through their Mission in the world. Together with others they work for justice in the world. In her strong belief that the Cross is a necessary passage to true life she found strength even when the future of her work was questioned. Mother Bernarda lived the Motto: In the Cross is Salvation.
Mother Bernarda died in 1863 and in 1883 the Holy Cross Sisters came to Southern Africa.
Today there are about 2,000 Sisters in 14 Provinces, who live in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Southern Africa.