1719 was an important year for the Lasallian community, as it was the year of St John Baptist de la Salle’s death. This was significant for many reasons but most importantly because these first Lasallian communities would no longer be able to rely on their founder directly. It was now up to them to take those first steps alone and to forge ahead to help achieve his vision.
Fast forward 300 years and from those relatively humble beginnings, the Lasallian community is now an established worldwide family of nearly 1 million students across every continent. Their Founder has been canonised and is the patron saint of teachers and his legacy is strong and vibrant. It is therefore fitting that, throughout this year, the Lasallian communities across the world have been holding tercentenary celebrations.
For the Lasallian community in the North West of England, this culminated in a celebration mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King in Liverpool on 26th June. The event was coordinated by De La Salle School St Helens, but involved staff and students from De La Salle Liverpool, Cardinal Langley Manchester and St Margaret Ward in Stoke, De La Salle Basildon, the primary schools of St Julies and St Bartholomew as well as staff from Kintbury retreat centre and several Lasallian brothers.
Over 1500 Lasallians gathered to join Bishop Tom Williams in celebrating mass. The congregation were welcomed by Andy Rannard, Headteacher of DLS St Helens, who spoke of the current dangers and division within modern day society and how refreshing it was to see so many young people with different accents, uniforms and backgrounds coming together to celebrate what unites them rather than what divides them.
This theme was picked up by Bishop Tom in his homily, as a he spoke of John Baptist de la Salle’s passion to find the wonder in each individual and his ability to ignite and inspire, as have the Lasallian Brothers over the generations.
The service concluded with a powerful piece of drama which explored the importance and meaning of the five core Lasallian values: faith in the presence of God, respect for all persons, inclusive community, quality education and concern for the poor and social justice. The performance also incorporated the personal experience of a Year 11 student at DLS St Helens, Ines Bonati, who spoke very movingly about the impact her Lasallian education has made on her and her life.
The event was further enhanced by a week-long art exhibition in the cathedral foyer featuring art work from staff, students and brothers across the district of Great Britain, Ireland and Malta. Including a very well observed landscape from the Provincial, Brother Laurence.
There have been numerous events around the world to mark the tercentenary, and this was a powerful and moving addition to what has been a very special year, emphasising the tercentenary theme: one heart, one commitment, one life.