On May the 16th, the establishment of Saint Joseph La Salle, Auxerre, celebrated its bicentenary. Two hundred years ago, the Brothers of the Christian Schools were approached by the Abbé François Viart (a priest of the cathedral), by the Mayor of the time, Monsieur Leblanc, and by the Prefect, Monsieur le Marquis de Gasville, asking them to open a school, because people were concerned about the lack of education among the children. Over the preceding one hundred years, the Brothers had become well known to many for their hard work, their teaching methods and their gentle firmness. So it was it natural to ask “the Brothers with four arms” to undertake the task.
Two years later, the establishment was already meeting with success, since there were two hundred pupils who had the benefit of a free education of high quality. Two centuries later, there are now 1,850 young people on the register. They start at nursery school level and can go up to the bac+2 [pre-university] level. The broad range of educational programmes is also one of the ‘value-added’ points about Saint Jo.
Gabriel Andreï has been head of the establishment for the past eight years. He recognises with great admiration the contribution of the Brothers who paved the way for the children to grow and develop in the exceptional setting of a 10 hectare site in the heart of the town. And he shows it. Supported by his leadership team and teaching staff, he ensures that the work of education is constantly developing and is firmly anchored in the local scene. A sign of people’s recognition of the value of the work that is being done was seen in the presence of many dignitaries at the ceremony, including the Bishop and diocesan leaders, Brother Jean-Rene Gentric, Visiteur Adjoint, Pascal Lhoste, Delegate of the Lasallian Tutelle, the Prefect, the Mayor, the general council, representatives of the armed forces and of business firms in the region.
Monsieur Ferez, a magistrate of the town, said in his address “Saint Joseph La Salle, like the other public and private establishments, is fulfilling the mission of providing a service of great public utility. Gabriel has the qualities of a truly visionary leader, and I shall miss him.” Monsieur Gabriel Andreï is leaving Auxerre to go to a mission in the Paris area, starting in September 2018.
Monseigneur Giraud presided during the mass in the cathedral of Auxerre attended by 1,500 people, mostly young people from Saint Joseph. It was a key moment for those assembled to learn more about Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle and his work and initiatives, and to realise how essential it is to work to ensure that children receive a good education in the faith and in harmony with their bodies.
The mass was followed by the unveiling of a statue of our Holy Founder beautifully located at the entrance to the establishment.
The whole school community is proud to make sure that he is well known and is highly visible in a place which is aware of the Lasallian dimension at its heart and throughout the region of Burgundy.