Origin of Brothers of Christian Instruction
The Brothers of Christian Instruction were founded in France in the region of Brittany, by a zealous priest, Fr. John Mary Robert de la Mennais, in 1819. He founded the Congregation of Brothers, teachers of solid piety, who would teach in catholic schools to make Our Lord Jesus Christ known and loved by the children of the working classes, who, at that time, had no good schools to go to.
Father J.M de la Mennais was born in 1780 at saint Malo, (France) ordained a priest in 1804 and soon was teaching at the seminary, college of saint-Malo. In 1812, a Napoleonic decree closed the seminary and this changed J.M. de Mennais’ life. He was appointed private secretary to the Bishop of Saint-Brieuc and later became Vicar Capitular of the Diocese at the Bishop’s death.
During his years of intense service in the diocese of Saint-Brieuc, Fr. De la Mennais realized the importance of the school apostolate and became involved in the foundation of two religious Orders: a group of zealous women sought his advice and in 1818 he organized them into the Congregation of the daughters of Providence. It is still very active today in France, England, Canada, Bolivia and Ivory Coast.
In 1819, with a diocesan priest, Father Gabriel Deshayes, Father de la Mennais formed a lay society of religious Brothers under the name of the “Brothers of Christian Instruction” with the motto GOD ALONE (in latin: DEO SOLI) abbreviated as: D†S. The Brothers take the initials F.I.C. from the latin: Fratri Instructions Christianae.
It was not long before the Brothers’ schools in Brittany became so famous that Fr. de la Mennais was asked to send the Brothers beyond the frontiers of France. The Congregation grew rapidly, schools and colleges multiplied, and many bishops in Europe, Canada, the United States, South America, Africa and even in Asia, called for the La Mennais Brothers to come and open the hearts of the youth to the liberating word of Christ, the Saviour, by running their catholic schools.
On 15th December, 1966, His Holiness Pope Paul VI proclaimed by a decree that the Servant of God, John Mary Robert de la Mennais, practiced the Christian virtues to a heroic degree and devotedly served the Church among the youth of under-privileged classes in France and in far distant missions. This declaration marks one of the last stages to the process of Beatification.