The "Lay State" - A Signifier of Transformations in the Church? The Contribution of Brother Michel Sauvage

Herman Lombaerts, FSC, Ph.D.


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This article explores the renewal lay people initiated at decisive moments of Church history. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the development of the modern school, lay people were given the responsibility for teaching religion and for guaranteeing Christian education in schools. A new type of religious congregation, with exclusively lay members, emerged. They had an impressive impact, worldwide, over the past three centuries. However, as the members of these congregations declined dramatically over the past decades, one wonders whether new generations will succeed in guaranteeing continuity in the near future. Or will ordinary, secular but baptized lay people create new forms of association while taking on responsibility for school education?

Michel Sauvage (1923-2001), a French member of the religious order Brothers of the Christian Schools, studied the theological identity of the lay “teaching-brother” as initiated by John Baptist de La Salle at the end of the seventeenth century. The present situation, with 1.9 % brothers left and 97.6 % ordinary lay teachers in the order's educational institutions worldwide, seems to suggest that once more a historical transformation is occurring in the church.


De La Salle; Lasallian; Christian Brothers; Lay Educators;

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