A Brother for 50 years, Brother Robert Schieler took the habit of the De La Salle Christian Brothers (Brothers of the Christian Schools) on September 1, 1968, in Ammendale, Maryland. He was first introduced to the Brothers as a student at West Catholic Boys High School (now West Catholic Preparatory High School) in Philadelphia, PA. The Philadelphia native holds masters’ degrees in European History (Notre Dame) and Asian Studies (University of Philippines) as well as a doctorate in Educational Administration (University of Pennsylvania). A missionary to the Philippines for 11 years, Brother Robert has served in a variety of administrative positions from Assistant Principal to Superintendent of Schools. A delegate to the 44th General Chapter in 2007, he also attended the 43rd General Chapter in 2000 and the 42nd General Chapter in 1993. He sits on several boards, including Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Bethlehem University in Palestine. He is a graduate of La Salle College (now University) in Philadelphia, PA, where he has also served on the Board of Trustees.
Brother Robert was elected Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (De La Salle) at the 45th General Chapter on May 20, 2014. He is the 27th successor of St. John Baptist De La Salle. He is the third American Brother to serve as Superior General. Brother Charles Henry Buttimer, FSC, became the first American Superior General in 1966. Brother John Johnston, FSC, became the second in 1986. Brother Robert is now leading the largest order of religious Brothers in the Church dedicated to education. He follows Brother Álvaro Rodríguez Echeverría, FSC, who served as Superior General for 14 years.
This interview took place at the Vatican during the October 2018 Synod of Bishops. Brother Robert was a delegate to the Synod, having been elected as one of the representatives of the Union of Superior Generals.
De La Salle Christian Brothers
Saint John Baptist De La Salle established a unique group of lay religious men dedicated exclusively to education – the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Born in Reims, France, into an influential family on April 30, 1651, John Baptist De La Salle decided early on to become a priest. His parents died when he was 20 and De La Salle became responsible for the family estate and took care of his six younger brothers and sisters while completing his studies. He was ordained in 1678, and two years later he received his doctorate in theology. While serving as a Canon in the Cathedral of Reims, a chance encounter with a layman establishing schools for poor boys set him on a new life path. Gradually De La Salle became involved in the project and soon assumed leadership of a group of rough and barely literate teachers possessing little preparation for their craft.
His first step on this new path was to invite the teachers into his home for a retreat and some basic teacher training. Later he moved with the teachers to a new house, renounced his Church position, gave away his wealth, and formed the community that became known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools (also known as De La Salle Christian Brothers). God, he said, led him “in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time so that one commitment led to another in a way that I did not foresee in the beginning.” Church authorities resisted this new form of lay religious life, and the educational establishment resented the Brothers’ innovative methods and their insistence on educating people regardless of their ability to pay.
In 40 years, De La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of schools throughout France that featured the teaching of reading in French (instead of Latin), students grouped according to ability, the integration of religious instruction with secular subjects, and well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission. De La Salle also pioneered programs for training lay teachers, Sunday classes for working young men, and one of the first institutions in France for delinquent youth.
De La Salle died near Rouen on Good Friday, April 7, 1719, with 23 active communities and 100 Brothers continuing the mission he set forth. He was canonized a saint in 1900 and named the Patron Saint of Teachers in 1950. His charism, educational spirituality, and extensive writings inspired Catholic educators in his own time and continue to inspire educators from many traditions today.
For more information, visit: lasallian.info