|June 22, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA|
Lasallian tradition reflected in spectrum of education
Archbishop Joseph Alemany, OP, spent about a decade coaxing and pleading with the Christian Brothers to send their Brothers to San Francisco. The archbishop needed the renowned educators to help revive a struggling college he had opened in 1862 in San Francisco. That college, included an elementary school and high school, was known then and today as Saint Mary's College.
Once in the East Bay the Brothers focused on elementary and secondary education. The first Brothers to settle in Oakland founded a novitiate at Fifth and Webster streets, and then opened St. Joseph's Academy, a grammar school and a high school, according to the history book, "We Are the Church: A History of the Diocese of Oakland."
In the late 1880s, the Brothers bought a stretch of land in an area of Oakland known now as auto row. A five-story structure, known as "The Old Brickpile" went up and Saint Mary's College moved to its Oakland home. The college grew both in size and reputation and was soon successful, so successful that in the 1920s, the campus literally ran out of room.
To free up some space the high school department was split off from the college and moved to Berkeley where it merged with St. Joseph's Academy, which had already moved there. The newly combined school was named Saint Mary's College High School.
Despite the departure of the high school, space continued to be an issue at the Oakland campus. The Christian Brothers decided to buy property some distance away in Moraga. In the 1920s Moraga was considered to be in the middle of nowhere. Ground was broken in 1927 and the campus moved there in 1928.
In 1965, the Brothers founded a second high school, De La Salle High School, in Concord. The high school is known nationwide for its highly successful football teams. And like all of the East Bay schools founded by the De La Salle Christian Brothers community, the high school is also highly regarded for quality education.
The three schools, as well as other projects and programs sponsored by the Brothers in the diocese, reflect the spirit of the Lasallian tradition and that of the community's founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle.
Born in France to a wealthy family in 1651, St. John Baptist de La Salle was ordained a priest at 27. As his relationship with God deepened he adopted the practice placing all of his trust in God. He relinquished his ties to his wealthy family, gave up his canonry and distributed the money he had to the poor.
De La Salle would focus instead on the plight of the poor, especially the children of the poor who were being denied an education. He started helping a group of teachers and worked with them in establishing schools for poor children. At this time only the children of the wealthy could access and gain an education.
Over time De La Salle became quite an innovator in education, and is credited with such things as advocating the training of school teachers, teaching children in the language they grew up with, and rather than individual learning, teacher to student, the notion of educating children together for their lessons.
He also came up with a new way of consecrated life with the creation of a lay community devoted to teaching and devoted to God. This first such community took the name, Brothers of the Christian Schools.
De La Salle died on Good Friday, April 17, 1719. He was canonized in 1900 and declared a patron saint of all school teachers in 1950.
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