For the first time in the district of France, the auxiliary of the Br. Visitor is a lay person
The interview took place at the Mother House of the Brothers of the Christian Schools during the first AMEL assembly of RELEM (15th to 19th October 2018).
Jean-Marie Ballenghien, a 55 year old layman, who is an engineer from the north of France is not a past-pupil of the Brothers. “I have always worked in Catholic education, he says, first of all as a teacher and pastoral assistant, then as deputy-director in a diocesan lycée. After some formation for becoming a head of establishment, I was chosen by the Brothers to be director of the Saint Adrien La Salle school ensemble at Villeneuve d’Ascq, near Lille, where I worked up to 2008. Still at the request of the Brothers, I then directed La Salle-Passy-Buzenval at Rueil-Malmaison, near Paris for 10 years.”
When he was asked to explain his role, Jean-Marie reminded us that he had not been elected but called upon by the new Visitor, Br. Jean-René Gentric. The historic decision to choose a lay person as assistant to the Visitor was taken by the Brothers at the beginning of the Provincial Chapter of 2018. “The Visitor associates me fully with the ecclesial authority which he exercises over the 150 Lasallian schools of the District. With us he has a team of “tutelle” or supervision delegates who accompany the establishments in the regions, and of other delegated persons, for formation, communication, finance…. All these delegates are also lay persons.”
The feeling of belonging to the Lasallian Education Mission is quite strong among the teachers of the French Lasallian network, regardless of whether or not they are Catholics. For some years, the La Salle education Fraternity has allowed all those who wish to deepen the link between their work and their faith in Christ, to come together and meet. There are about 650 persons and 45 groups spread across the District. At these meetings they reflect and pray together and share periods of conviviality. “It is very important for the future of our network, states Jean-Marie. Brothers and lay persons find themselves in a fraternity for carrying the mission forward together.”
On subject of the present problem of the migrants streaming across Europe, the District of France has tried to help by providing schooling. “On this front, organisations like “Secours catholique” have more freedom of movement than our schools. In spite of everything, our Lasallian institutions such as Saint-Denis and Nantes welcome in young migrants to facilitate their insertion, especially through learning French and learning a trade.”
With regard to the Tricentenary Celebrations our Founder dies natalis, the District of France has created a commission to coordinate the numerous initiatives taken by the establishments and the international events which will take place in France (in Rouen on April 7th and in Reims on April 30th). Jean-Marie emphasises that there is a lot of enthusiasm “for celebrating St. John Baptist De La Salle, but above all for developing the educators of today and tomorrow!” In Rouen, for example, the Archbishop is inviting not only the Lasallian schools but all Catholic schools to honour St. John Baptist De La Salle, patron of all educators.
We wish Jean-Marie Ballenghien fruitful and peaceful work.
lasalleorg | Rome
Director of communications
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools