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History of the Lasallian Movement in Great Britain

 

Phase I - The De La Salle Brothers

The first De La Salle Foundation in England was opened in 1855, just five years after the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in Britain.

A group of French Brothers set up a school called Saint Joseph's College, in Clapham, for a mixed clientele of English and French boys. In subsequent years, Saint Joseph's subdivided and moved locations a numbers of times, but its name and traditions survive today in Saint Joseph's College Beulah Hill and Saint Joseph's Academy Blackheath.

Ten years later, the Brothers extended their presence to the cities of Northern England &emdash; Liverpool in 1866 and Manchester in 1884, where they concentrated their efforts on working for the increasing numbers of marginalised children in the cities that had developed in the wake of the industrial revolution.

The first Brothers in England were an international group which included French, Americans, Canadians and Irish. Along with many other religious, they played a key role in nurturing Catholic education throughout its infancy in the second half of the nineteenth century. The children they taught were also an international bunch, mostly of immigrant origin, reflecting the composition of the Catholic population in the major cities of that period. Life was not always easy, but it was thanks to the efforts of the religious orders and the sacrifices of the parents that the Catholic Church in England in the twentieth century could set itself the goal of providing a place in a Catholic school for every Catholic child.

The history of the De La Salle Brothers in Britain has followed closely the course of the progress of the Catholic Church over the same period.

In the course of the twentieth century, and especially after the dual system settlement of the 1944 education act, the Brothers worked in educational establishments of all sorts: primary, secondary and tertiary (teacher training), voluntary aided schools, private, direct grant and home office schools. Their presence stretched from Ipswich to Jersey and from the Isle of Wight to Stirling. The peak of activity was reached in the early1960's, when there were more than 380 Brothers operating in 41 establishments, including two provincialates, two novitiates and two junior novitiates.

Since that time, the story has continued to reflect the changes and developments in the Church in the light of the Second Vatican Council and in the secular world of the post-modern era.

 

Phase II - The Lasallians: Brothers and Laity Together

The heightened importance of the role of the laity in the Church and the Providential decrease in the numbers of religious vocations have altered the profile of Catholic education in Britain. In 1986 all the De La Salle schools had a Brother as headteacher or principal. By 1996, all senior posts had transferred to Catholic lay people.

The Brothers see this development as the natural result of the work that they and countless other dedicated religious accomplished in almost a hundred and fifty years of building up an educated, professional body of Catholic lay people in Britain. Saint John-Baptist De La Salle, the Patron Saint of Teachers, would be the first to applaud the fact that there are now sufficient numbers of Catholic lay teachers committed to the ideals of Christian education to whom the future can safely be entrusted.

 

FURTHER READING

The Story of Saint John Baptist De La Salle Patron Saint of Teachers

 

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