Blessed Edmund Rice & the Christian Brothers

Blessed Edmund Rice and the establishment of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
‘He would love the Lord, his God, with his whole heart and his neighbour’.
‘His intellectual powers were of the highest’.

1762: Edmund Rice was born in Ireland. During his youth, he attended a hedge school in Callan, County Kilkenny.

1779: He began his working life as an apprentice for his uncle, Michael Rice, dealing in ship handling in Waterford City Ireland.

1786: During his time in Waterford he married Mary Elliot, the daughter of a wealthy business man.

1789: Mary died giving birth to their daughter of the same name. Their daughter Mary’s birth was premature and as a result she was handicapped. Undoubtedly a seminal experience in Edmund’s life.

1798: Nano Nagle’s Presentation Sisters arrived in Waterford and were assisted by Edmund Rice in establishing a convent.

1800: Rice began to educate poor children at night after work. This subsequently inspired volunteers to assist him in what he did.

1802: Edmund was joined by Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn. The three men lived in rooms over a stable, now being used as a school, in Waterford.

1803: A purpose built monastery and school opened in Mount Sion, Waterford (7 June).

1806: Tipperary was where the first foundation was established outside of Waterford City, in Carrick on Suir.

1807: Dungarvan, County Waterford sees the construction of the second foundation.

1808: Vows were made by Edmund and eight of his companions, they became known as ‘Gentlemen of the Presentation’.

1811: The North Monastery foundation was raised in Cork City.

1812: Sees the arrival of some Brothers in Dublin.

1816: Brothers arrived in Limerick and Thurles.

1817: The Brothers became no longer under the control of the bishop, instead they were reorganised into a Pontifical Congregation.

1822: A plan for reorganisation was accepted and the Congregation of Christian Brothers were founded. The Brothers in Cork remained as a Diocesan Congregation and were still known as the Presentation Brothers.

1825: A school was opened in Preston Lancashire, it was the first of the schools to be founded in England. Schools were later founded in Manchester, Liverpool and London.

1828: The Congregation’s Headquarters was moved to Dublin from Waterford.

1829: Anti-Catholic Penal Laws repealed by the Catholic Emancipation Act.

1832: Christian Brother schools in Ireland were used as temporary hospitals during a Cholera outbreak.

1838: Following Edmund Rice’s resignation, Paul Riordan was elected as second Superior General of the Christian Brothers.

1840: Edmund Rice made his last tour of the Christian Brothers Ministries and Irish Schools.

1841: Edmund began to suffer from serious illnesses.

1844: 29 August Edmund died at Mount Sion, Waterford.

1961: In the Archdiocese of Dublin an appeal to Beatify Edmund was introduced.

1979: Edmund’s cause was brought to Rome.

1993: The title “venerable” was granted by Pope John Paul II and Edmund was declared to be a man of ‘heroic virtue’.

6 Oct 1996: Edmund Rice was declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II at St. Peters Square, Rome.

Penal faith – his spiritual inheritance
Edmund Rice grandparents and parents had to face a testing trial as a new penal code had been enacted over four reigns from 1692 onwards. Systematically, the ‘disloyal papists’ had been deprived of all religious, social and political rights. It had been conveyed in 1759, the law did not presume an Irish Papist to exist, except for the purpose of punishment. During the later penal period the disabilities against the Catholic religion pressed most heavily on the laity. In the words of Lecky a noted prominent Protestant historian the objective of the penal code was ‘to make them poor. . .to degrade them into servile caste.’ This had however been reversed, only until 1829 with the Catholic Emancipation Act. It was reluctantly passed by the British Government due to the hard work campaigned by a prominent figure in Ireland during the early eighteenth century, Daniel O’ Connell. Therefore the last of the penal laws was enacted in 1746. The first act granting relief to Catholics was not until 1771. Interestingly Edmund was born between these two significant dates and therefore belonged to a generation of Catholics who were to experience first the relaxation and then the abolition of the Penal Code.

Na,, accessed 23 November. 2015.
Pope Paul VI et al, Constitutions and Statuses of the Congregation of Christian Brothers (Vatican, 1978) pp.14-16.
A. L. O’Toole, A Spiritual Profile Of Edmund Ignatius Rice (Bristol, 1985) pp. 1-49.
D. Rushe, Edmund Rice The Man and His Times (Dublin, 1995) pp. 49-51.

Evidence on the Christian Brothers work in the Third World

St. Anselm’s College Heritage & Historical Research Society, have looked at work the Christian Brother ministries do in poverty-stricken places. Test your knowledge on the Christian Brother ministries in India by tackling the questions followed by the video. Note, this is only one example of their work in impoverished areas. The Congregation of Christian Brothers have ministries on a global scale.