Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim (centre, with red skull cap) and archbishop emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam (on Leow’s right) with the La Salle brothers at the 300th death anniversary commemoration of St John Baptist de La Salle at the St Francis Xavier’s church in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. - NSTP/SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

PETALING JAYA: The dwindling numbers of La Salle brother-teachers in the country and worldwide is worrying.

If left unchecked, said Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim, these noble educators would disappear in two to three decades, thus, threatening quality education and discipline in schools.

He said the brothers had dedicated their lives exclusively to educate millions of students of all races and creeds in the country.

“Many of these students have risen to great prominence to become successful professionals and leaders.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to these La Salle brothers on whose shoulders we stand on today.

“We have to be thankful to the dedicated services of these brothers, who have groomed many a student and given them a direction in their lives,” said Leow, an alumni of St Paul’s Instituition in Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

Leow the majority of the brothers in Malaysia were aged 60 and above.

“One of them is 80 years old.

“In one to three decades, I fear there will be no more brothers in our schools.

“Will the La Sallian spirit eventually die? Will its legacy slowly fade away, leaving only memories?” he asked.

He said the brothers had inculcated great values and given so much to educate local youth for 167 years.

“They made a great impact on our lives with their passionate commitment to provide holistic and quality education, since the brothers planted their seed with their noble mission here in 1852,” said Leow, at a mass to commemorate the 300th death anniversary of St John Baptist de La Salle at the St Francis Xavier Church in Jalan Gasing.

Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Most Reverend Julian Leow Beng Kim (centre, at the altar), leading the mass to commemorate the 300th death anniversary of St John Baptist de La Salle at the St Francis Xavier’s church in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. - NSTP/SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

The tercentenary celebration themed “One Heart, One Commitment, One Life” was followed by a fellowship luncheon.

Present were Lasallian East Asia district auxiliary visitor Brother Patrick Tierney, Kuala Lumpur archbishop emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam and La Salle brothers nationwide.

Frenchman St John Baptist de La Salle is the patron saint of teachers and founder of the Institute of the brothers of Christian schools.

Leow called on all to ensure that future generations were provided with a holistic education and not just made to chase paper qualifications.

“Are we addressing the needs of our country and providing our children with a solid foundation for a better world of tomorrow?

“We must ensure that education remains relevant and has the matching needs of the country, so that our children become useful citizens,” he said.

Leow adds that for this reason, efforts ought to be made to preserve La Salle mission schools to produce teachers who were dedicated to educate the young.

There are a total of 32 La Salle schools in Peninsular Malaysia and 12 associated schools in Sabah and Sarawak.

Tierney paid tribute to de La Salle as a great man who succeeded in establishing the brothers to use innovative methods in educating people, regardless of their ability to pay, since 1680.

“Although the brothers are getting fewer, the number of Christian missions is expanding worldwide.

“This is a sign of the people’s wishes to continue to accept its establishment,” said Tierney, who flew in from Hong Kong.

He said the tercentenary celebration was not only meant to honour St John Baptist de La Salle’s impact and mission, but also to marvel at the La Salle Brothers’ contributions.