On June 1911, a group of nine religious educators established a small school for boys in Paco, Manila. Roughly a hundred years later, the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines now leads the operations of 16 Catholic academic institutions across the country.
Under the leadership of the Brother Visitor, the Brothers serve in various capacities in schools under the Philippine sector of the Lasallian East Asia District (LEAD).
While the Brothers primarily served as teachers or professors during the early years of the organization, the growth of the sector has shifted their responsibilities into more administrative roles.
“The demand for Brothers’ presence cannot be met by the supply. In recent years, it’s been steadily and slowly increasing. It’s not at the rate where it could go back to the old situation. We have to be more strategic,” explains De La Salle Philippines (DLSP) and Philippine Sector Leader Br. Jose Mari Jimenez, FSC.
In view of the high demand for Brothers, Jimenez assures that measures are in place that maintain a steady stream of recruits for the vocation. National Vocations Director Br. Alex Diaz, FSC oversees the recruitment in the different sector schools. Diaz shares that the Brothers have also been working with lay partners to improve the recruitment efforts.
As of June this year, there are approximately 51 Brothers serving under the Philippine sector with 82 aspirants.
Living up the Mission
Central to the mission of the Brothers is the service of the poor. Through the schools, the Brothers in recent years have made efforts to make Lasallian education more accessible for marginalized classes.
In the University of St. La Salle (USLS), the tuition fee payment scheme has been designed to ease the financial burdens of college students who come from poor high schools. USLS President Br. Raymundo Suplido, FSC explains that students who came from financially challenged high schools are required to pay a lower tuition fee during their stay in the university.
In the same way, schools like the Jaime Hilario Integrated School in Bagac, Bataan and St. Joseph School-La Salle in Bacolod were established specifically to cater to the needs of students coming from working class families living near the institutions.
“We are also in the ministry of school supervision. Sometimes we partner with smaller and poorer schools to improve their educational service, even if they are not Lasallian schools. These are areas where Lasallian schools aren’t even established,” furthers Jimenez.
The Brothers also supervise community development initiatives such as the Lasallian Volunteer Program. Established in 1994, the program tasks volunteers to live in and serve in a particular poor community for a certain period of time.
Jimenez, however, admits that it might be difficult to engage students from certain schools to also get involved.
“You need to come up with an environment where you encourage them (to take action). That’s still a [problem] that you need to think about.”
Christian Achievers for God and Country?
Instilling students with the values and skills necessary to be leaders in society is also one of the primary goals of the Brothers. Jimenez explains that this is usually done through the religious formation program undertaken through retreats and classes.
However, DLSU President and Chancellor Br. Ricky Laguda, FSC admits that they are limited in this capacity.
“What we evaluate is only what we can observe within the confines of the educational institutions, and what happens outside the schools is beyond the control of Lasallian educational communities,” Laguda explains.
Suplido adds that while certain schools have metrics that attempt to quantify this, it would still be difficult to accurately measure the success of graduates in such a short period of time. Suplido believes that this is due to the number of years it usually takes before a graduate’s career path develops.
The Future Begins Here
Jimenez hopes that collaboration between the Brothers and lay partners would be strengthened in view of future challenges the sector will face.
“[The] challenge is creating the structure for the Brothers and partners to effectively collaborate. [We] know there is so much work to be done that we cannot do it on our own. Our structures are still maturing. DLSP is trying to transition from a Brothers only organization to an organization with a broader scope.”
“It is not just the Brothers’ mission. It is our mission. [A stronger engagement between partners] can be done through active dialogue, formation programs, and accompaniment. I think most importantly for the Brothers to be always available and open to the needs and questions of all the members of the Lasallian Family,” shares Br. Sockie de la Rosa, FSC from De La Salle University-Dasmarinas (DLSU-D).