The Birth of Lasallian Schools in Hong Kong
If there is one person, apart from the Brother Superior General, who should be credited with getting the Brothers to come to Hong Kong, it is Father Timoleone Raimondi. This man of ardent zeal and boundless energy was determined to obtain the services of the Christian Brothers to look after the education of Catholic boys in Hong Kong.
For many years Father Raimondi pestered and peppered the Brother Superior General, Brother Philip, with requests. Despite many refusals, Father Ramondi would not take no for an answer. His persistence eventually paid off when, just before his death, Brother Philip promised to do his utmost to send a few Brothers to Hong Kong.
And so, on the 7th November 1875, there landed in Hong Kong the six pioneers who formed the first Community of the Christian Brother Schools. Brothers Hidulphe Marie, Hidulphe de Jesus, Hebertus who were from the Boarding school of Marseilles; Brother Adrian Edmund, Aldolphus Marie from the Novitiate of London; Brother Isfrid from Paris.
The new Director had experience and success with schools in Agra and Colombo. On the arrival of the Brothers 75 boys were attending English classes and were accomodated in 4 rooms in Pottinger Street; the limited space had so far been sufficient for all the boys that sought admission, but the number of pupils was likely to increase, in the near future, as hundreds of Portuguese families had been made destitute by the disastrous typhoon which had swept over Macao in 1874, and they had taken refuge in Hong Kong. After a few weeks the enrolment had doubled and it became evident that an extension to the present building must even then be contemplated. Mgr. Raimondi, in June, 1876 purchased for $14,000 a fine house situated at No. 9 Caine Road and the Brothers at once moved into it. Here a class was opened in January, 1878, for Chinese boys who desired to learn English conversation and correspondence. Brother Alphonsus was entrusted with the class, which numbered 30, in July 1878.
April, 1880, Brother Cyprian was appointed Director. He had been a distinguished teacher in New York and Quebec and had held the directorship of several schools in his native land, Canada, previous to his experience in London and Paris.
In January, 1884, Brother Ivarch Louis arrived in Hong Kong as Director. The College had already secured a prominent place among the leading education establishments and its influence radiated through all the countries of the Far East. Brother Louis bore up with great fortitude under a long series of trials: never once did he complain but more than ever his religion was manifested in an absorbing devotion to duty. In 1889 he was called to Colombo and Brother Abban took his place. In 1893 he was appointed Provincial of the English speaking houses of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in the Far East which included Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Ceylon. After Brother Abban's departure the venerated Vicar-Apostolic, Mgr. Raimondi went to his eternal reward. On being told that he had but a few hours to live, he cried out "Well, if I had to begin life all over again, I would do just what I have done." He breathed his last, September 1894, having worked on the missions for 42 years.
During the period under review the staff of St. Joseph's College received very valuable additions. Brother Alphonsus (Kildare) has his name linked with the success achieved by St. Joseph's on all the sports fields of the Colony for many years. Brother Stephen Buckley (Cork) as teacher of the Oxford Classes was responsible for the laurels won by St. Joseph's boys at the annual examinations.
We find the organisation of the studies then very much the same as they remained until 1915: the three higher class prepared their students for the Oxford University examinations: Senior, Junior, Prelim, and it was quite usual to see St. Joseph's heading the list of results both in quantity and quality.
In 1914, Brother Aimar arrived. He was a great administrator of remarkable foresight and organising ability. He bought the site of the Old Germania Club in 1918 where St. Joseph's College now stands. Noting that pupils living on the Kowloon side had to cross by double-trip ferry every day, he set up a school in Chatham Road, Kowloon (St. Joseph's College Branch School) which was ably conducted by the late Brother Paul O'Connell. When Brother Aimar opened La Salle College, in 1932, St. Joseph's Branch was the basis of the student body of the new school. Brother Aimar brought the new school, La Salle College, to an admirable height of intellectual activity, discipline and prestige right from its first years.
As the number of Brothers increased and with the support of the people of Hong Kong more Lasallian schools opened in the 1950's, 60's and 70's. They are La Salle Primary (1957), De La Salle Secondary School, N.T. (1965), St. Joseph's Primary (1968), Chan Sui Ki (La Salle) College (1969), Chong Gene Hang College (1971), Chan Sui Ki Primary (1973) and St. Joseph's College Kindergarten (1974).
Our Lasallian schools in Hong Kong now cater for about 11,000 students, 500 teachers and 1,700 Catholics. Father Raimondi's dream has come a long way.