The following short biography of St. John Baptiste de La Salle was excerpted from the De La Salle Institute website:
Born in Reims, France, April 30, 1651
Ordained priest April 9, 1678
Died April 7, 1719
Beatified February 19, 1888
John Baptist de La Salle was the first son of wealthy parents born in Reims, France.
De La Salle received the tonsure (the practice of cutting or shaving some or all of the hair on the scalp as a sign of religious devotion or humility) at age 11 and was named canon of the Reims Cathedral at the age 16.
Although he had to assume the administration of family affairs after his parents died, he completed his theological studies and was ordained a priest on April 9, 1678.Two years later, he received a doctorate in theology and became involved with a group of rough and barely literate young men in order to establish schools for poor boys.
Moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so “far from salvation” either in this world or the next, de La Salle was determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children. He abandoned his family home, moved in with the teachers, renounced his position as canon and his wealth, and formed the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
The educational establishment resented his innovative methods and insistence on gratuity for all, regardless of whether they could afford to pay or not.
Nevertheless de La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France that featured instruction in the vernacular, students grouped according to ability and achievement, integration of religious instruction with secular subjects, well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission, and the involvement of parents.
A pioneer in founding training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts and sciences, de La Salle’s work quickly spread through France and—after his death—continued to spread across the globe.
In 1900, de La Salle was declared a saint. In 1950, because of his life and inspirational writings, he was made patron saint of all those who work in the field of education.