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Statue of St John Baptist returns ‘home’ Print E-mail
Star: 7 September, 2002

ImageAfter about 60 years of being “away from home”, the century-old cast-iron statue of St John Baptist de la Salle was finally returned to St Xavier’s Institution (SXI) here. The sculpture was placed at the Uplands International School in Pulau Tikus (formerly the Christian Brothers’ training college) after the SXI’s old building in Farquhar Street was destroyed during World War II.  

Christian Brothers’ Schools Penang director Brother Charles Levin said the statue was transported back two months ago using a large crane. “It had to be lifted through the school fence and placed on a new RM16,000 base made of Shanghai plaster and granite sponsored by the Old Xaverians,” he said at the unveiling and rededication of the statue yesterday. Stating that it took several attempts to get the statue back by seeking permission from his Brother Superior, he said it was providential that the “homecoming” coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Brothers’ history in Malaysia.

Frenchman John Baptist (1651-1719) founded the Institute of Brothers of the Christian Schools that was later known as the La Salle Brothers. The Brothers came here in 1852 and took over the running of SXI, established in 1787 by Father Garneau, a French priest.
John Baptist was canonised in 1900 and 50 years later, he was declared by His Holiness Pope Pius XII as the Patron of All Teachers and Student Teachers.
Brother Charles said replicas of the statue could be found in all Brothers’ educational institutions worldwide. He added that Singapore had recognised a replica of the statue at the Singapore National Museum, as a national heritage. “If Singapore should recognise their replica of our founder as Singapore heritage, it is surely incumbent on Penang to do likewise – the statue is Xaverian and Penang heritage,” he said. 
Old Xaverians Association president Dr Goh Cheng Teik said the Brothers were teaching in only 26 schools in France in 1719 but their work had spread to many parts of the world today. He said from their Malaysian base at SXI in Penang, the Brothers expanded to establish many other schools and recently set up a private college – the De La Salle Institute – at Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur.
SXI administration vice principal Cheng Beng Lock said the rededication ceremony was apt as teachers of today faced lots of challenges that drained them spiritually, emotionally and physically. 

Brother T. Michael Jacques, a former SXI principal and former international representative of the Brothers, performed the statue’s dedication ceremony


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