St. Joseph Calasanz was the founder of The Order of the Pious Schools, commonly known as the Piarist Fathers. He was born in a little village in Spain called Peralta de la Sal in 1556. He was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1583, and nine years later moved to Rome.
St. Joseph was very moved by the misery of the poor children of Rome. Therefore, he opened a free school for them in 1597. This school, which was open to every child regardless of their religious affiliation, is believed to be the world's first modern public elementary school. It stressed piety and learning, thus the Piarist motto: “pietas et litterae”.
On March 25, 1617, with the permission of Pope Paul V, St. Joseph Calasanz and fourteen other men became the first members of a new religious congregation. On November 18, 1621, Pope Gregory XV raised the congregation to the rank of religious order under solemn vows, calling it The Order of the Pious Schools. The abbreviation "Sch. P." following the name of the Piarist stands for Scholarum Piarum, Latin words that means "of the Pious Schools."
The Piarists, as do many religious organizations, profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In addition, according to the wishes of St. Joseph, members of the Order also profess a fourth vow to dedicate their lives to the education of youth, especially the poor.
St. Joseph Calasanz died August 25, 1648 at St. Pantaleo's Church in Rome, where his body is interred. Pope Clement XIII declared him a saint in 1767 and in 1948 Pope Pius XII named him the Heavenly Patron of all Christian Schools.
||During his lifetime the Piarists began to grow in great numbers and to found many schools. Today there are over 1,650 Piarists teaching 115,000 students in 32 countries around the world.
In the late 1940’s, many Piarists from Eastern Europe immigrated to the United States. With the help of Bishop John O’Hara of Buffalo, they established their first American community in Derby, NY in 1951. Within the next decade, they established Piarist schools in Buffalo, NY and Devon, PA, a diocesan school in Fort Lauderdale, FL and a provincial House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
The Principles of Education of St. Joseph Calasanz
- Instruction is a necessary part of education, but it is only one part. The child must also be encouraged to know God, to know himself and to find fulfillment.
- Education must be made available to every child.
- Education should be free.
- School should be open to every child without discrimination as to race, faith or social class.
- The student must be respected, and the educator should see in him the living image of Christ.
- Education is the best means to make the child a true disciple and a real apostle of Jesus Christ.
- The education given to a child should prepare him to face life with competence and dignity.
- The best of life can be expected for one who from his most tender years has been educated in learning and piety.
- Education is the most effective means towards the reform of society.
- To teach is a holy vocation, and for a Piarist, it is the way God beings him to the very sanctification of his life.