Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Brothers of the Christian Schools



[This article was written by brother Nivard-Josephus in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


The Brothers of the Christian Schools (F.E.C.), sometimes known as Christian Brothers, owe their foundation to St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle (1651-1719), who established in 1679 a school for poor boys in Rheims, France. In 1680 he grouped his teachers in a community, and later rules were drawn up, and a distinct religious garb was given to the members of the community. He introduced a number of notable reforms in education, such as the substitution of the mother tongue for Latin as the language of instruction, the substitution of the simultaneous method for individual tuition, and the establishment of a normal school, technical schools, and workers' educational classes. Since his death, the members of the order have established colleges and schools in Italy, in Spain, in England, in Egypt, and in many places in the Far East, such as Rangoon, Singapore, Penang , Mandalay, and Hong-Kong. The mother house of the Order is at Lembecq-les-Hal, Belgium ; and it now numbers 14,000 professed members, 4,600 members in training centres, and 300,000 pupils, attending 1,275 schools grouped in 43 countries.


In 1718, when St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle was still living, a few brothers were to be sent to Canada ; but circumstances thwarted the design. It was only in 1837 that four brothers reached Montreal to open a school on Notre Dame street, slightly west of the Place d'Armes. To-day, in Canada, 1,100 brothers teach in 78 houses. The population of their training colleges comprises 120 scholastics, 130 novices, and 340 juniors. The brothers impart education to 30,000 students, belonging to three provinces, two of which are French-speaking (Montreal and Quebec) and the other English-speaking (Toronto). Schools of all kinds are represented: primary, commercial, agricultural, industrial, and secondary, or high schools. Most of the establishments are parochial, in which primary teaching is given. A few of them are equipped with a technical section, such as those of Lachine and Port Alfred. Industrial and reformatory schools are represented by Don Bosco near Quebec, Saint Joseph's Industrial School in Alfred, and Saint John's in Toronto, Ontario. A few institutions add to the primary course a commercial or scientific one, and sometimes both: e.g., the academies of Three Rivers and Ottawa . The Mount St. Louis Institute, Montreal, the Commercial Academy of Quebec, and Saint Joseph's College in Edmonton, Alberta, are respectively affiliated to the universities of Quebec and Alberta. Saint George's Institute of Pedagogy, Montreal, affiliated to the University of Montreal, is under the direction of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, its temporary seat being at Mount St. Louis College. Its purpose is to give a supplementary professional education to those (religious or secular) who intend to become school inspectors or professors. The brothers of the province of Quebec have also established a mission in the Hakodate diocese, Japan.


Source : Brother NIVARD-JOSEPHUS, ""Brothers of the Christian Schools", in W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. I, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., p. 312.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College