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Blessed Edmund Rice

Blessed Edmund Rice 

Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice was born at Westcourt, Ireland, on June 1, 1762, when Irish Catholics were oppressed by the weight of anti-Catholic legislation devised by the Protestant English to keep the Catholic majority in subjection. The fourth of seven sons, he grew up in a devout farming family. At 17, he began work at Waterford in his uncle's commercial enterprise, which he later inherited.

Married at 25, he lost his wife two years later and was responsible for an infant daughter in delicate health and mental condition. Supported by his strong faith, he accepted his cross and grew in close union with God through meditation on the Scriptures and frequent attendance at Mass and the sacraments. He dedicated himself to works of charity, putting his riches at the service of the poor. He became a model Christian layman.

The Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was an important development in the struggle of Irish Catholics to attain their just position in society. From 1740 to 1841, Ireland's population doubled, and there were many economic and political problems associated with the education of youth and the care of the aged and infirm. Edmund lived and worked in this atmosphere.

Despite the attraction of the contemplative life, he could not forget the miserable condition of many boys in danger of losing their faith. In 1802, encouraged by Pope Pius VI and with the blessing of Bishop Hussey of Waterford, Edmund sold his large business, arranged for this daughter's care, and opened his first school in an abandoned stable, living on the upper floor.

Soon, other teachers joined him, attracted by his leadership and spirit, so a religious community began in Waterford. In 1808, in the chapel of the Presentation Sisters, Edmund and his companions made annual vows under a series of constitutions approved by the Vatican in Rome. Later, Edmund took the religious name of Ignatius.

In 1820, the Brothers became an institute of pontifical rights. This was to move the Brother's Congregation's control away from the local bishops into the Brothers' hands, thus allowing for a more significant expansion and movement. Some brothers chose to remain under diocesan control and became known as the Presentation Brothers.

Edmund was elected the first Superior General of the new Congregation, and he served in this position until 1838. He died in Waterford in 1844. He was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Rome on October 6, 1997.

Edmund's work spread across Ireland and England, Gibraltar, Australia, India, the Americas, and Africa. His brothers today are active in education, hospital ministry, and other educationally-related situations.

The Christian Brothers 

Following the example of Edmund Ignatius Rice, their founder, the Christian Brothers have worked in education-related ministries throughout the world since 1802. The first school was set up in Waterford, Ireland, to assist young boys in becoming good Catholics and upright citizens. This foundation served as the model for all the missions of the Brothers.

In the early years of the Congregation, the Brothers spread rapidly throughout Ireland, setting up schools to serve the Catholics who desired education in their faith and academics, culture, and athletics. Soon word of their endeavours spread, and requests came from around the world for the Brothers to set up schools in other countries (England, Gibraltar, Australia, India, and Canada). The first permanent mission of the Brothers in North America was in St. John's Newfoundland in 1876. This mission became the foundation for a series of schools and institutions throughout the Americas and to this day.

There are presently about 2,000 Brothers throughout the world continuing Blessed Edmund's work and ministry of education of the heart, mind, body, and soul. The headquarters are in Rome, where the Congregational leadership team maintains the international connection of the Brothers with the Church in Rome. Besides the primary mission of education for young people, other ministries include adult education, teacher training, hospital ministry, homes for disadvantaged youth, and refugee work.

We, the Christian Brothers of North America, gifted and called by the Spirit, experience the deep presence of Christ in ourselves, in each other in a caring community, and in those we serve in our mission of evangelization. We are sent by the Church to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to the people of God, particularly to today's youth and to the poor, especially to the materially poor; so that by our lives and apostolate of Christian education we may develop the awareness within them of God's loving presence.

This Mission Statement includes the four fundamental principles that should guide our future apostolic choices:

  • Fidelity to humanity and to the signs of the times;
  • Fidelity to Christ and the Gospel;
  • Fidelity to the Mission of the Church in the World;
  • Fidelity to the religious life and to the charism of our Congregation.

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