John Baptist de La Salle was born on April 30, 1651, in Rheims, France. The son of aristocratic parents, La Salle had the opportunity for an excellent education and went on to be ordained a priest. He fully intended to work among the wealthy people of his area throughout his career. Unexpectedly, De La Salle's life changed dramatically. A promise to a dying friend to assist a group of Sisters in their work with orphan girls brought De La Salle to education. Further assistance to a friend starting a school for poor boys in Rheims solidified his true vocation as an educator, an endeavor which would consume his entire life.
By 1684, having given up his personal wealth and title in society, De La Salle brought a group of schoolmasters together as the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The Institute was soon after recognized as an official Congregation of Religious in the Roman Catholic Church. The Congregation's primary purpose was to serve the educational needs of society, particularly among the poor.
De La Salle and his Brothers took up the cause of education vigorously. In addition to the founding of schools in 22 cities by the time of his death in 1719, De La Salle contributed significantly to the entire field of education through his writings and innovative methodology. In 1900, John Baptist de La Salle was declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Fifty years later, Pope Pius XII declared John Baptist de La Salle the Patron Saint of Teachers. The foundation of the Lasallian educational tradition can be found in the vision and achievement of De La Salle who realized that: "...not only is God so good as to have created us, but God desires all of us to come to the knowledge of the truth."
The Lasallian tradition emphasizes the fact that all people, especially the young, have an inherent dignity which comes from their being created in the image of God. For Lasallian educators, education is a means of developing this dignity for the well-being of each student as well as for the well-being of our society. This is the heart of the Lasallian educational tradition.
Today, the work of Saint De La Salle is continued by the Christian Brothers, and by dedicated lay men and women and associated religious and priests, who bring a Lasallian distinctiveness to a myriad of educational works in 81 countries throughout the world.