President's Corner

The Dominicans to Honor Catholic Education in the Bay Area

Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP

Each year the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology honors men and women who have contributed significantly to the life of the Church in the West with the Archbishop Alemany Award. In memory of Joseph Sadoc Alemany, OP, the first Archbishop of San Francisco, the award will be presented to Br. Dominic Berardelli, FSC, Br. Edmond Larouche, FSC, Sr. Christina Maggi, DC and John F. Scudder, Jr., each vital collaborators in Catholic education. The celebration will take place on May 10th at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco beginning with Mass at 5:30 pm and a reception and dinner at 6:30 pm.
One of Archbishop Alemany’s first priorities, having arrived in California, was to see to the education of young people, especially young men for the priesthood. Accordingly, he sought to attract teaching orders to the new archdiocese in San Francisco. In 1857 he first approached the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools.

The Archbishop’s choice of the Lasallian Brothers was an obvious one, given the sympathy that Alemany, a Dominican, would entertain for the mission of Fr. John Baptist de La Salle (de La Salle was not beatified until 1888 and was canonized by Leo XIII in 1900; Archbishop Alemany knew him only as “Father”).

The teaching mission of Fr. La Salle was so urgent that nothing should interfere with it. Likewise the preaching mission of St. Dominic was first and foremost. Central to the Dominican charism is, first, to contemplate the divine truth and then to offer the fruits of one’s contemplation to others through preaching –“contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere” is one of the mottos of the order. For St. Dominic the preaching mission was so urgent that nothing should interfere with it – even the pastoral ministry! The earliest Dominicans were to preach, baptize, hear confessions and celebrate the Eucharist.

Lasalle insisted that no priests or ecclesiastics could be members of the new congregation, for the priestly obligations would interfere with their teaching. The Brothers were to be rooted in faith so that they could offer their students a practical education, but always in the light of the Catholic faith. As it reads in the primitive rule: "The spirit of this Institute is first, a spirit of faith, which should induce those who compose it not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute all to God.”

Alemany appreciated that St. Dominic and Father La Salle were kindred spirits – one urgent to preach, the other urgent to teach – and he determined that the Brothers must come to his new diocese. The Brothers, however, did not share his enthusiasm.

It was part of the character of Archbishop Alemany that he was persistent. He first approached the Brothers in 1857. Having failed every other means, in 1867 he requested the intervention of Pope Pius IX who instructed the Brothers to accede to the Archbishop’s request and in 1868 the first Brothers arrived in California.

In the interim, Alemany had founded in 1863 Saint Mary’s College, a high school that he intended also to become a college. The project floundered, beset by financial difficulties and well-meaning incompetence on the part of the administration and faculty. All of that changed with the arrival of the Brothers of the Christian Schools five years later. Within the next twenty years Brothers had begun grammar schools and high schools in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sacramento, Martinez and Santa Inez. The Archbishop‘s hope in what the Brothers would accomplish had been fully exonerated.

Each of this year’s honorees continues to fulfill the mission of St. John Baptist de La Salle and the legacy of Archbishop Alemany. Br. Dominic Berardelli worked in the United States and abroad in elementary, secondary and higher education. He was a teacher and principal in the Philippines for 10 years. He taught at La Salle High School in Pasadena, and was superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Orange. Having served as co-director of mission at the Brothers' headquarters in Rome he returned to De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon, and in 1995 came to Saint Mary’s College as special assistant to the president.
Br. Edmond Larouche, FSC has served as President of St. Mary’s College High School in Albany, California since 1997. Very much in the spirit of St. John Baptist de La Salle, he fostered a wonderful cultural and racial diversity in the student body with a heart for disadvantaged families; the high school offers over $2 million in annual financial assistance to its students. Prior to his appointment at Saint Mary’s, Br. Edmond taught at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, Justin Siena High School in Napa, and served as Auxiliary Provincial of the District of San Francisco from 1988 to 1995.

Collaboration with lay men and women has been important for the Brothers. John F. Scudder, Jr., President of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School Preparatory, has been involved with Lasallian education for over four decades. He graduated from Sacred Heart Cathedral in 1973, earned his BA from Saint Mary’s College in 1977, and after having received his graduate education, returned to Sacred Heart to serve as teacher, dean, principal and president. Mr. Scudder has overseen a remarkable period of growth for the school. Since 2000, he has invested over $45 million in capital improvements.

Another collaboration important to Lasallian education and to the Church in the Bay Area has been that between the Christian Brothers and the Daughters of Charity. In 1987 St. Vincent’s high school, administered by the Daughters of Charity, joined with Sacred Heart High School to become Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. Then, in 2001, the Daughters of Charity and Christian Brothers co-founded De Marillac Academy to offer tuition-free Catholic education to students of low-income families in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.

Sr. Christina Maggi, DC served as teacher and principal in San Francisco, Carson City, Nevada, and Los Angeles. In 2000 she served as Provincial Secretary for her province and, since 2007 on the Provincial Council. She is presently the Counselor for Education Ministry for the Daughters of Charity, member of the Board of Regents at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, and Chair of the Board of Trustees for de Marillac Academy.

Please join us in honoring Catholic education in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tickets for the Alemany Awards Celebration may be purchased at www.dspt.edu/alemany2014, by calling 888-450-3778, or by contacting Michael Chinnavaso at 510-883-7159 or via e-mail at mchinnavaso@dspt.edu. We also encourage you to please consider purchasing tickets or a table to sponsor a religious guest such as a Dominican friar, DSPT faculty member, or other religious person who would like to attend but is prevented by financial limitations.