The Beginnings in New Orleans
The first Christian Brother school in Louisiana was St. Patrick's parish free school which opened January 21, 1851. This school, originally staffed by three Brothers, was such a success that four more Brothers were sent the next year to instruct the 360 students. A new building was built which was named St. Mary's Academy and took in its first boarders in December of 1854. Soon Brothers were teaching in schools in St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph's parishes. The District of New Orleans was created in 1865. Schools were opened in Baton Rouge, Pass Christian, MS, Galveston and Brownsville, TX, but prolonged yellow fever epidemics, which decimated the Brothers' communities, disastrous floods and economic conditions curtailed further expansion. In 1875 the District of New Orelans was closed, and attempts to reopen several schools in the city were short-lived. The Brothers withdrew entirely from the city in 1900 when the pastor of St. Joseph's School refused to pay their salary.
The Beginnings in Santa Fe
At the invitation of Archbishop Lamy, five Christian Brothers arrived in 1859 in Santa Fe to begin a boys school at the historic San Miguel Church. Later schools were also opened in Mora, Taos, and Bernalillo. The District of Santa Fe was established in 1867. When Brother Botulph (Peter Joseph Schneider) took over as principal in 1870, he put St. Michael's on sounder fiscal standing, added two new buildings, and was appointed as Santa Fe County Superintendant for Education and later appointed to the New Mexico Territorial Board of Education. Due to personnel problems and lack of local men joining the Brothers, the District was closed in 1882 and merged with the District of St. Louis which continued the educational work in Santa Fe.
A New District
Anti-clerical laws and persecution in France in 1904 caused many French Christian Brothers to flee their homeland. Some ended up in Puebla, Mexico, and they soon were helping to staff 17 schools in Mexico along with the Mexican Brothers. In 1914 revolution broke out in Mexico accompanied by a virulent anticlericalism causing the Brothers to flee to the United States, but not before two Brothers were killed by revolutionaries in Zacatecas. Some Brothers ended up in Santa Fe, some were sent to Havana via New Orleans while others were dispersed to other American Districts. The District of New Orleans - Santa Fe was created in 1921 with Brother Agnel Isidore as the first Visitor (Provencial). This new district was comprised of schools in Louisiana which had recently opened in Covington, Lafayette and New Iberia and the schools and formation institutions in New Mexico. The NOSF District, originally under the supervision of French Assistant Superior General, was transfered to the Assistant for the United States in 1946. After considerable effort, the Brothers returned to New Orleans with the opening of De La Salle High School in 1949. Brother Richard Arnandez (Bartholomew Edwin) became the first American Visitor of the District in 1949.
Top, left - St. Patrick's Church, New Orleans, where the first Brothers' school was opened in 1851. Top, right - An early photograph of the original 1859 St. Michael's school building in Santa Fe. Bottom, left - The former Novitiate and now the Provincialate in Lafayette, LA. Bottom, right - The Brothers' community at Puebla, Mexico, from which came a number of founders of the NOSF District.