In January 1903, three french-speaking Oblate priests - Rev. Charles Fromentin, Rev. Louis Jacquier, and Rev. James Isenring, traveled by train to Trolley Square from New York City at the invitation of the Most Rev. John Monaghan, the Bishop of Wilmington.
Their mission: establish a secondary school for boys to minister to the city’s growing immigrant and industrial base. And thus, The French School was founded in a house, funded by the Sisters of the Visitation, at the corner of 8th and West Streets.
By the fall of 1903, the school’s early name had already been dropped in favor of Salesianum - the House of Sales - which had an auspicious start welcoming its first 12 students in September. By 1907, four graduates became the first Salesian Gentlemen, forging a pathway that subsequently has been followed by more than 17,000 alumni, who live in all fifty states, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
The growth and diaspora of Salesianum would surely inspire pride and humility in the school’s founders. Their journey, which began in Switzerland and France, was just the beginning of what has become an institution defined by their tenacity, gentleness, patience, and optimism.
While so much has changed throughout its more than 115-year history, Salesianum is always at its best when it reflects the virtues those first three Oblates rooted at the school’s founding. Always willing to take risks, legendary Oblate priests who succeeded them - like Rev. Thomas Lawless ‘08 - worked decisively to have Salesianum best serve its students and its city. Whether moving to the current property in 1957, welcoming waves of Cuban immigrants in the early 1960s, or being the first school in Delaware to integrate in 1950, Salesianum has a rich history of demonstrating what it means to Live Jesus.
While the personnel has necessarily changed, and the curriculum has evolved to make sure that today’s Salesian Gentlemen are better equipped than the generation before, the halls of Salesianum remain kinetic; fueled by a spirit of brotherhood and focused on the gift of learning together in the present moment. Most importantly, Salesianum remains a reflection of its three founding Oblates, whose 115-year journey feels like it is just getting started.