The Lasallian East Asia District (LEAD) is a community of 150 Brothers of the Christian Schools and 13,000+ Lasallian partners and associates, who together sponsor and operate more than 70 educational institutions in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
LEAD belongs to a worldwide network of Catholic universities, schools and ministries established and supervised by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, whose mission is to provide quality human and Christian education to the young especially the poor. Aside from teaching more than 150,000 students in this part of Asia, LEAD also has institutions of non - formal learning that reaches out to the last, the lost and the least.
A Brief Overview of the Lasallian East Asia District
The Lasallian East Asia District (LEAD) was established in 2011. The District is a community of 140 Brothers of the Christian Schools and 14,000+ Lasallian partners and associates, who together sponsor and operate more than 70 educational institutions in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Although LEAD is technically a young District, it is rich in tradition and history, reaching as far back 1852. Each country in the District looks back with gratitude to the missionary Brothers who first came to their shores1:
Six French and Irish Brothers arrived in Singapore in 1852. Three of them proceeded to Penang in Malaysia to start St. Xavier’s and three remained in Singapore to start St. John’s School in Bras Basah.
Three French Brothers arrived in Myanmar (then Burma) in 1860 through the invitation Bishop Paul Ambrose Bigandet of Rangoon (present day Yangon). Within three days of their arrival they had a school functioning beside the Cathedral – St. Paul’s.
Six Brothers (4 French and 2 Irish) arrived in Hong Kong in November, 1875 with one French Brother from Vietnam waiting for them at the pier. This group of Brothers was split into two communities: Three took care of St. Joseph's College and three took care of the West Point Reformatory.
Eleven English-speaking Brothers from various parts of the Institute arrived in the Philippines in 1911 through the efforts of Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Jeremiah Harty, an old boy of the Brothers in the USA. The first school established that same year was De La Salle College in the capital city of Manila, led by its Director, Br. Blimond Pierre, a Frenchman.
The first four Brothers to arrive in 1932 and settle in Japan were from Canada. They opened a language school in Sendai where they taught foreign languages from 1932-1941. After the war, in 1948, they founded an Orphanage in Sendai called La Salle Home.
Five French Brothers arrived in 1951 from Saigon. They came upon the invitation of the Association of Chinese Merchants in Nakhonsawan, 250 kilometers from Bangkok, to run a school.
The impetus to come together by these Sectors can be traced to Proposition 27 of the 43rd General Chapter which mandated Brother Superior and his Council to “supervise the process of reorganizing districts… to strengthen the vitality of the sectors that are in need.” After several years of meetings, assemblies, and consultations, the Constitutive Assembly of the new District was held in Manila in 2010 wherein the Statutes of the District were written. The inauguration of the District was held in Singapore, on May 15, 2011. The first Visitor of LEAD was Br. Edmundo Fernandez FSC and first Auxiliary Visitor was Br. Thomas Lavin FSC.
Today, the ministries of LEAD are varied and give a dynamic definition to giving a “human and Christian Education to the young, especially the poor”. There are schools, ranging from primary to tertiary education, with a tradition for excellence but are accessible to all. There are boarding houses and formation centers. There are facilities that minister to youth who are in conflict with the law. In all these ministries, the Brothers closely associate themselves with their very active Lasallian Partners.
Each ministry of LEAD makes an effort to be accessible to the poor by means of scholarships, financial aid, and other grants. Realted to this, in an effort to become “Brothers without Borders”, the District has identified three “flagship” ministries that cater primarily to those in the margins. These are:
- The Bamboo School (Thailand), a school by the border of Thailand and Myanmar for stateless children living on the border between two countries,
- Jaime Hilario Integrated School-La Salle (Philippines), a school by the sea for children of fisher folk and farmers, and
- The Mangyan School (Philippines), a remote school by the mountains (that can only be reached by a six-hour hike) that specializes in education that respects and enriches the indigenous culture of its students. These ministries are helped by various volunteer groups from around the world and readily welcomes financial aid.
One-Third of the District is composed of senior Brothers (60 years old and above). LEAD has made a commitment to the care of sick and aging Brothers through the Residencia De La Salle, a residential health care facility staffed and managed by a Lasallian medical school and hospital: De La Salle Health Sciences Institute and De La Salle University Medical Center.
On the other side of the coin, one-third of the District of composed of young Brothers who offer their energy and dynamism to the various ministries of the District. In more recent years, LEAD has been welcoming Brothers from other Regions and Sectors for undergraduate or postgraduate studies. Today, there are three such student-Brothers from RELAF and three student-Brothers from the District of Vietnam studying in the different Lasallian universities in the Philippines.
Despite the challenge of geography and bringing together varied traditions and cultures, the Brothers of LEAD look back at the past with gratitude and look to the future with hope. Inspired by the 45th General Chapter, the Brothers of LEAD pray: “This work of God is also ours.”
1 Bulletin of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools 240: The Institute in Asia and Oceania
2 Paul Tam, Hong Kong Lasallian Family Archives
3 Br. David Hawke: From Seven to One (2013), twentyeleven Magazine, Vol 1. Issue 1