Some years ago, in the 1990’s, as the Christian Brothers began to see the waning trend of Brothers in the order, they put in place mechanisms to ensure the solid and lasting foundation of their work as Catholic educators. Whereas the number of Brothers has decreased in the United States, the number of lay men and women working side-by-side with the Brothers in their ministries has increased significantly. Unlike the overall trend in Catholic education in the U.S., new Lasallian schools are opened each year. This is no coincidence or happenstance.
This growth is due in large part, if not completely, to the focus the Brothers have put on the mission and the aforementioned mechanisms enacted in order to ensure that mission continues. They have put great trust in their lay partners, and we do not take that for granted. We understand fully the gift of St. La Salle to not only the Church but also to the students and families that are welcomed into our schools. One of the more important protocols the Brothers of the San Francisco-New Orleans District (of which CBS is a part) have created over the last 15 years, in order to sustain the mission, is called the Lasallian Catholic Assessment Process. In short, it’s a life-giving school community process in which surveys and interviews of all community members—teachers, faculty, parents, etc.—uphold the strengths of the school while at the same time naming the challenges and areas of growth that the school faces. The process promotes honesty within the community and allows all members to speak of the shared values of the community via their common experiences.
I had the privilege and honor of being a member of a visiting team recently for one of these assessment processes at a school named De Marillac Academy in San Francisco. De Marillac is a San Miguel model school, and as such is entirely tuition free and receives its annual operational budget via outside donors. The school serves one of the poorest neighborhoods of San Francisco, the Tenderloin, where drugs and prostitution are the norm, even for the students as they walk to school each morning. The students are predominantly minority—Chinese, Latino, Filipino, and African-American, and they all reside within the neighborhood in which they go to school.
I tell you all of this because, despite the differences in demographics between De Marillac and CBS, we have many things in common. In our essence, we are both schools committed to serving the students entrusted to our care under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit and the Brothers and in the charism of St. John Baptist de La Salle, our Founder and Patron Saint of Teachers.
But there’s more than that. What I confirmed on my visit to De Marillac is what I already suspected: that the strength of the school lies in the community and individual members that make it up. At De Marillac there was a beautiful triangulation of values in which parents, students, and the school could articulate extremely clearly the goals and values of the school. Even further, these goals and values were not simply the school’s; they were goals and values owned by all members of the community, including the parents and students themselves. I believe the same holds true here. Our strength and success lie in our common vision.
We are all deeply grateful for the Brothers (and now the Dominicans) for gifting us with that vision—one of promise for the future. Without you, that vision would not become a reality. Thank you for that. Have a great weekend!