The Superior General of the Institute of the De La Salle Christian Brothers made a brief but meaningful visit to three cities in Malaysia towards the end of March 2015. Rev. Bro. Dr. Robert Schieler who was elected the superior general last May was on his first visit to Malaysia as the head of this international body of De La Salle Brothers.
Rev. Bro Dr. Schieler in addition to having an undergraduate degree has also earned two post graduate degrees: one in Modern European History from the University of Notre Dame and another in Asian Studies from the University of the Philippines. His Ph.D in Educational Administration is from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ability to Harness the Networks within the Family
Shortly after being elected the superior general of the De La Salle Brothers, he made a perceptive and telling observation: ‘ I know that anything that can be accomplished will be done only because of the great Lasallian Family that we are all part of‘.
In Kuala Lumpur and at a dinner in his honour at St John’s Institution, he further elaborated that what the De La Salle Brothers achieved over the many years was only possible because of the La Sallian Family’s ability to effectively harness the many networks within the family.
Solid & Ready Support from Old Boys
He went on to state that the loyalty, goodwill and solid support extended to the De La Salle Brothers from old boys of their schools, colleges and universities was second to none! He also paid tribute to the many lay teachers who shared the same teaching philosophy and taught alongside the De La Salle Brothers over the years. Furthermore, he also mentioned the role played by Parent Teacher Associations and a host of similar minded groups.
The La Salle Family in Malaysia had every reason to give him a warm welcome. Those who have studied at a La Salle school in Malaysia owe an immense debt of gratitude to the De La Salle Brothers who first came to this country more than one hundred and sixty years ago.
Unique La Sallian Characteristics
La Sallian schools in Malaysia have, over the years, earned an enviable reputation for excellence in academic, sporting and extra-curricula activities. They achieved this eminence and status through their unique La Sallian characteristics.
These include the following: respect for each student. La Salle teachers chose to be called brothers rather than masters as was the case in France at that time. They were seen as older brothers and role models by their students. Another characteristic is quality, all round education. The young student really learns and develops a thirst for truth and knowledge. They are also helped to think clearly.
Focus on the Last, the Lost and the Least
A third characteristic is openness to all: the poor, the rich, the neglected… these La Sallian schools opened their doors to all irrespective of race, status and religion. A fourth characteristic is La Sallian schools have dedicated teachers who would work with strong faith and ardent zeal for the good of their community.
De La Salle Brothers and their fellow lay teachers gave special attention to the Last, the Lost and the Least in society. This unrelenting focus on the socio economically disadvantaged remains to this day.
A Force for Good in the Community
Today the La Salle Family in Malaysia consisting of loyal alumni and students, teachers and principals both past and present, board of managers, board of governors and parent teacher associations are a force for good in their respective communities in the country.
A case in point to consider is the dinner in honour of the superior general was organised by the De La Salle Brothers in collaboration with the Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Alumni Associations. This was a big undertaking, given the time constraints. It also involved attracting and inviting attendees from the La Salle Family in Melaka, Muar, Johore, Seremban, Negri Sembilan, Klang, Petaling Jaya, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. As it turned out, about two hundred and fifty guests were present for the dinner to welcome and meet the superior general.
Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Alumni Associations
The biennial La Sallian Educators Conference, the last one in Taiping, Perak in September 2014, is another example of this fine collaboration. The federation is an active and forward looking umbrella body for all La Sallian associations in Malaysia. However, no one should underestimate the many challenges facing La Salle schools in Malaysia.
I am sure that the superior general would have gained a first hand appreciation of the fine La Sallian heritage and traditions in Malaysia. Rev. Bro Dr. Robert Schieler will also take back with him the ever lasting gratitude of thousands of individuals who have benefitted from the selfless sacrifice of the De La Salle Brothers. The herculean challenge ahead of us here in Malaysia is to do our very best in reviving the La Sallian ethos towards integrity, unity and spirituality.