Tel: 01865 311 332
De La Salle Provincialate,
140 Banbury Road,
Oxford OX2 7BP.
Canon of the Cathedral of Reims and eldest son of a wealthy family in the days of Louis XIV, John was
expected to rise to an eminent position in the Church.
But he turned his back on all that to work for the poor children of the slums of Reims, Paris, Rouen and
many other town and cities of France.
In 1680, John was asked to step in and save a scheme to promote free schools for the poor of Reims,
which had been started by Adrian Nyel, but which was in danger of collapsing because of the low morale
of the teachers.
He reorganised and revitalised the whole project, placing great emphasis on the need to give the
teachers in these schools a sense of self-esteem, a sense of the dignity of their vocation as Christian
As the eldest son of a wealthy family, De La Salle had the world at his feet. Well educated by tutors at
home and then in select schools, he could have become a prosperous lawyer like his father. Instead his
sense of vocation led him to choose to be a priest, but even so he could have set his sights on a good
career leading to wealth and dignities. But step by step he started to get involved with organising schools
for the street kids of Reims, of Paris and then throughout France. His genius for getting things done made
his work a success, but more important was his vision that, in the eyes of God, working-class children are
just as important and have as much right to education as the children of the king. In 17th century France,
people thought he was mad!