Patron of All Teachers
- St. John Baptist de La Salle
Born at Reims into a devout and influential family, John Baptist de La Salle received the tonsure at 11 and was named Canon of the Reims Catherdral at 16. Though he had to assume the administration of family affairs after his parents died, he completed his studies and was ordained priest on 9th April 1678.
He became tentatively involved with a group of rough and barely literate young men who wanted to establish schools for poor boys. The young De La Salle gradually assumed the leadership of the small group of lay teachers. Moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so "far from salvation" either in this world or the next, he determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children "often left to themselves and badly brought up."
To be more effective, he abandoned his family home, moved in with the teachers, renounced his position as Canon and his wealth, and so formed the community that became known as the Brother of the Christian Schools.
His enterprise met opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life, a community of consecrated laymen to conduct gratuitous school "together and by association." The education establishment resented his innovative methods and his insistence on gratuity for all, regardless of whether they could afford to pay.
Nonetheless, de La Salle and his Brother succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France that featured instruction in the vernacular, students grouped according to ability and achievement, well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission and the involvement of parents.
In addition, De La Salle pioneered in programmes for training lay teachers, Sunday courses for working young men, and one of the first delinquents.
Worn out by austerities and exhausting labors, he died at Saint Yon near Rouen early on Good Friday, 7th April 1719, only weeks before his sixty-eighth birthday. He was canonized on 24th May 1900. De La Salle was proclaimed as Patron of All Teachers on 15th May 1950.