– By Bro. R. J. Jeyakanthan
The De La Salle Brothers will mark their 150th anniversary (Sesquicentennial Year) of coming to Sri Lanka and tercentennial death anniversary of St. John Baptist De La Salle, their Founder with a thanksgiving Mass at the De La Salle Brothers´ Mother house in Mutwal, Colombo 15. The Mass will be celebrated by Most. Rev. Dr. Pierre Ngugen Van Tot, Papal Nuncio of Colombo, on May 27 at 9.00 a.m.
One hundred and fifty years is a big chunk of time’s history. To have survived that length of time and striven vigorously to disseminate La Sallian ideals in the hearts of our fellow citizens is a veritable apostolate we could today feel happy about.
Three French Brothers set foot on Sri Lankan soil in December 1866and were coaxed by Bishop Hillarian Sillani OSB who had earlier approached the Superior General in Rome, to take over St. Benedict’s from the Benedictine Fathers. They took over the school Management of St. Benedict’s Institute in January 1867. The three French Brothers weren’t competent enough to handle the English and being offset by adverse comments left off their work and set sail to west in August 1867. Everybody was in a huff and the upset Bishop’s renewed attempts brought back Brothers better equipped to handle English. Official commencement of La Sallian apostolate at St. Benedict’s was in May 1868 – hence the 150th year falling in May 2018.
The La Salle Brothers arrived here assuming the administration of St. Benedict College. The end of the nineteenth century saw the Brothers settle at Kotahena, Mutwal and Negombo.
The Brothers in Sri Lanka formed their own District called District of Colombo in 1919. Currently the District includes 55 brothers working in Sri Lanka and 15 in Pakistan.The Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle Brothers) was founded by St. John Baptist De La Salle (1651-1719) of France as a congregation dedicated entirely to the apostolate of educating the poor.
The 150 years of the educational apostolate of the Brothers unmistakably shows us how the sons of De La Salle lived up to the vision and charism of their Founder in the local set up. They are much beholden to the hierarchy, the Priests, Sisters, Mariest and Franciscans and their lay colleagues and their old boys for their closeness to them all these years.
They feel that theirs would have been a hopeless task without such a host of ready fellow workers.
In the thinking of their Founder, providence should be their sole dynamic power and if is to the Lord Almighty that the De La Salle Brothers sing a mighty Te Deum as they recall nostalgically their story of 150 years.