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The Birth of the 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 Raimondi 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. They were to help the Diocese to manage St. Saviour’s College and St. Louis Orphanage.

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, and Hebertus who were from the Boarding school of Marseilles; Brothers Adrian Canny and  Aldolphus Doyle who were Irish and came from the Novitiate of London; Brother Isfrid from Paris. The Brothers found no time to relax because they were asked to take charge of the St. Louis Orphanage and the English section of St. Saviour’s College on the very next day, 8th November 1875. They renamed St. Saviour’s College as St. Joseph’s College, honouring the patron of their Institute. 

At the arrival of the Brothers, 75 boys were attending English classes and were accommodated in 4 rooms in Pottinger Street. After a few weeks the enrolment had doubled and it became evident that larger premises were needed. In June 1876 Mgr. Raimondi purchased a fine house situated at No. 9 Caine Road and the Brothers at once moved into it. In January, 1878, a class for Chinese boys who desired to learn English conversation and correspondence was opened. In just five years, the number of students had increased from 75 to 281. The premises in Caine Road was now not large enough to satisfy the constant demands for admission.

By 1881, there were more than 300 boys on the roll at Caine Road. Bishop Raimondi again came to the rescue buying a new property in Glenealy, a majestic building overlooking the Cathedral. The school soon became a landmark on Hong Kong Island. The Brothers finally had a campus which could accommodate the demand. However, a rare earthquake in 1918 damaged the grand school building necessitating another change of campus. 

In 1914, Brother Aimar Sauron had arrived in Hong Kong. He was a great administrator of remarkable foresight and organising ability. Immediately after the 1918 earthquake, he bought the site of the Old Germania Club where St. Joseph’s College stands to this day. 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). 

When Brother Aimar opened La Salle College, in 1932, St. Joseph’s Branch was the basis of the student body of the new school. The new school became a landmark in Kowloon, not least because of its majestic dome under which was a beautiful chapel. Brother Aimar brought the new school to an admirable height of intellectual activity, discipline and prestige right from its first years. It continues to be held in high esteem by the public.

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. First off was La Salle Primary School which opened in 1957 under the able leadership of Brother Henry Pang. The pupils imitated their elder College brothers with admirable academic and extra-curricular achievements.

De La Salle Secondary School, New Territories, opened its doors in 1965. It was the first Lasallian school that was distant from the city, was located near the border with mainland China and catered to the sons of farmers and working classes. In more modern times it has changed to a co-educational school. One distinguishing mark of the school is that it caters to quite a number of cross-border students.

St. Joseph’s Primary School, a feeder to St. Joseph’s College, opened in 1968 and immediately became a popular choice for parents. Its relatively cramped premises has not prevented it from turning out all-round students.

Chan Sui Ki (La Salle) College opened in 1969. It was named for a philanthropist and took its first intake of students from La Salle Evening School. Brother Herman Fenton was the first principal but he became busy with planning for a new primary school and Brother Eugene Sharkey took over and had a long reign.

Next up was Chong Gene Hang College in 1971.  Mr Chong had worked hard and long in the USA and managed to gain enough money to donate towards a school in his name in Hong Kong. The Brothers chose a site in a working-class district which also featured the sons of fishermen. Brother Brendan Dunne became the first principal and set a friendly, family-like tone from Day 1. The latest development is that the school is turning co-educational.

 Currently, the youngest of our Lasallian schools in Hong Kong is Chan Sui Ki (La Salle) Primary School which opened in 1973 under the benign leadership of Brother Herman Fenton. It was a co-educational school from the start and was opened in a low-cost housing estate. With such rapid developments in Hong Kong, it is now surrounded by high-rise middle to upper class housing.

A final development saw the birth of St. Joseph’s College Kindergarten in 1974. It was located on the top floor of St. Joseph’s Primary School and was well looked after by Brother Alphonsus Breen. It had to close, however, in 2012 to enable full-day schooling in St. Joseph’s Primary School.

In 2021, our Lasallian schools in Hong Kong cater for about 7,000 students, 700 staff and about 2000 Catholics. Father Raimondi’s dream has come a long way.