To the Ethiopian Catholic University – La Salle


Brother Carlos G. Gómez-Restrepo, F.S.C., president

Dear Members of the Academic Community,

Nelson Mandela, one of the biggest and best human beings in recent world history, has bequeathed to us an inextinguishable source of inspiration. Once he said “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” If there is an institution entitled to do this, it is a university. We are all called to make a difference in the lives of each other: students, faculty, staff, stakeholders, friends, and many others who are in contact with us. What a responsibility!

Nelson Rorihlahla Mandela, President of South Africa, addresses the 49th session of the General Assembly.

Three hundred fifty years ago, there was a man called by God to transform education in order to provide possibilities to those who were in need and had few or no opportunities to grow, live better lives, and be committed citizens for their countries. He was St. John Baptist de La Salle, a French priest, born to a wealthy family, a Doctor of Theology with a promising ecclesiastical career. However, he realized that children and youth in his time were far from having opportunities for better conditions of life.

John Baptist de La Salle, portrait by Pierre Léger, 1734

Deeply moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so “far from salvation”, he determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children “often left to themselves and badly brought up.” To be more effective, he abandoned his family home, moved in with the teachers, renounced his position as a cathedral canon and his wealth, and so formed the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

His enterprise met opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life, a community of consecrated laymen to conduct schools “together and by association.” The educational establishment resented his innovative methods and care for all in a spirit of fraternity. Nevertheless, De La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France and, later on, in 80 countries in all continents. In addition, De La Salle pioneered in programs for training lay teachers, Sunday courses for working young men, and one of the first institutions in France for the care of delinquents. Worn out by austerities and exhausting labors, he died at Rouen early in 1719, only weeks before his sixty-eighth birthday. John Baptist de La Salle was a pioneer in founding training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts, and sciences. His work quickly spread through France and, after his death, continues to spread across the globe.

In 1900, Pope Leo XIII declared De La Salle a saint. In 1950, because of his life and inspirational writings, Pope Pius XII made him the patron saint of all those who work in the field of education. John Baptist de La Salle inspired others how to teach and care for young people, how to meet failure and frailty with compassion, how to affirm, strengthen and heal.

The library at ECU-La Salle

Dear Friends, every May 15th we celebrate the memory of St. La Salle. This is a good opportunity to underscore the Lasallian character of our Institution that was entrusted by the Ethiopian Catholic Church to the Brothers of the Christian Schools. We are aware of the great opportunity the ECU-La Salle has to impact the Ethiopian Society and the development of the Country. We want to invite you all to celebrate with us this important date.

The Brothers’ Community at ECU-La Salle: Carlos Gómez (Colombia), Getachew Nadew (Ethiopia), and Ghebrehiwot Eyasu (Eritrea)

Photo credits: ECU-La Salle, Brother Carlos Gómez, E. Rousset, and Caritas Pro Vitae Gradu

3 thoughts on “To the Ethiopian Catholic University – La Salle

  1. Brother Bernard LoCoco says:

    Carlos, this is a lovely reflection and the quote of Mandela is so profound and appropriate.
    Charles, the photos enhance the reflection.


  2. Father David Gentry-Akin says:

    Thank you, dear Brother, for your beautiful and moving reflection on one of the feasts of the Founder. It is both thoughtful and inspiring! Father Dave Gentry, Saint Mary’s College of California


  3. Lila Leath says:

    Carlos, thank you, for reflecting on the words of Nelson Mandela, and explaining the life of John Baptist de La Salle and how we reached this point with the Brothers of the Christian Schools, I have so much to learn here at St. Mary’s College, today I’ve learn about Brothers of the Christian Schools and Ethiopian Catholic Church, it is very enlightening to know that we are extended to Ethiopian Catholic Church, I hope one day to visit the School.
    Thank you, Lila Leath


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s