The Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of St. John Baptist de La Salle on April 7, the day of his death — or his “birth to heaven” — and here at CBU, we will celebrate Founder’s Week in celebration of him as the Founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Lasallian Tradition during the week following his feast day this year, April 11-14. Scheduled events range from fundraising to prayers, from community service to donuts, from trivia games to the announcement of the recipients of this year’s Distinguished Lasallian Educator Awards. A full list of the week’s events is available at www.cbu.edu/founders-week.
Founder’s Week is a time for us all to reflect on the rich history of the Lasallian mission and to celebrate our Founder and the Patron Saint of Teachers, whose dedication to providing a human and Christian education to the young — and especially to the poor — launched the worldwide Lasallian network to which CBU belongs.
I keep coming back to something I’ve said before, notably at last year’s Bell Tower Gala and at my inauguration as President of Christian Brothers University, and it seems appropriate for our Founder’s Week celebration as well: If ever there was a time that Memphis needed CBU and the Brothers, it is now. Why? Because CBU faithfully embodies the vision of St. John Baptist de La Salle, and because of this, we are very good at transforming lives, raising students and families out of poverty, and providing a high value education.
De La Salle was born into a world very different from ours. He was born 372 years ago into a very wealthy family in France. But his life’s journey took him down paths he could not have imagined. He became a priest and established schools for poor children, eventually renouncing his privileged position and giving away his inherited wealth in an effort to provide equal education to all.
As a result of his work more than three centuries ago, the world is blessed with a small community that calls itself the Brothers of the Christian Schools. That community founded this university 152 years ago and brought the mission of De La Salle to Memphis. CBU has been true to the vision our Founder and has continued to find new and innovative ways to educate the whole person.
When we talk about quality education and what that means for Lasallian schools, you can go back to when De La Salle established his schools in France in the 17th century. Innovation is what brought about that quality. They were the first schools to teach in the vernacular, to teach in French rather than Latin, the first schools to teach students together in the classroom instead of one-on-one lessons. So that’s what quality education means to us: It means innovation.
The Lasallian tradition emphasizes the fact that all people have an inherent dignity which comes from the fact that they were created in the image of God. For those of us who follow the Lasallian Tradition, education is a means of building on this dignity for the well-being of each student — as well as for the well-being of our society and our community.
As the Pope John Paul II said, “We teach the priority of the ethical over the technical; the primacy of the person over things; and the superiority of the spirit over matter… We preserve the transcendence of the human person over the world and of God over the human person.”
By educating the whole person and being true to the Founder’s vision, by continuing to find and create innovative ways to provide that quality education in an inclusive, affordable, and respectful manner, CBU can indeed change the world — including Memphis.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us. Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.