The Mission of The Christian Brothers
A mural depicting the global impact of Brother Edmund Rice greeted the Christian Brothers and the founding Brother Principal Harold Michael Delaney, CFC, as they entered their first residence at Monsignor Farrell High School on Staten Island, New York.
In 1961, Monsignor John J. Considine, the priest administrator of what was to become a flagship school of the Archdiocese of New York, commissioned the painting as a welcoming gift. He was familiar with the work of Brendan McDonough, a talented young artist in Ireland who had distinguished himself in Rome, Ireland and later in the United States for his large murals depicting historical moments in the life of the Church. The initial design of the mural was submitted to Christian Brother Congregation Leadership and received the enthusiastic approval of the Superior General and his Council.
The wall size canvas was mounted on the stairway that went from the Brothers’ residence to the classroom corridors. For the next four decades Brothers would view the impressive image as they passed into the school building for their ministries of teaching, counselling, coaching and administration. When the school needed to expand and the Brothers had moved to an off-campus residence, restructuring required the movement of the canvas. A large framed photographic likeness of the original now has a place of distinction at Monsignor Farrell HS.
Eventually, the original canvas, a bit worse for age, dismantling and storage, attracted the attention of Brother Raymond Vercruysee, CFC, a Blessed Edmund Rice scholar and former member of the North American Province Leadership Team. He arranged for the movement of the canvas to Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey, commending it to the skilled hands of teacher and master artist, Mr. Nedko Bucev.
Mr. Bucev takes up the story in the following video where he explains all that has gone into the restoration of this unique work of art. The painting is now on exhibit in the library of Bergen Catholic HS. Bernard McDonagh (1924 -2016) painted the mural in his studio in Sligo, Ireland, in 1961. The following description traces the story he offers a viewer of his creation.
COMPOSITION OF THE MURAL
The composition reading from left top portion of the mural depicts the Golden Age (Fifth to Eighth Century) in Ireland. A monk is seen illuminating a manuscript in a setting typical of the period, while a boat leaving the shore symbolizes the mission abroad.
Immediately below, the scene depicts a hedge-school, master and pupils, the hedge-school being the only means of education available to the masses during the Penal Days.
The composite picture then leads the eye from the scene of the Penal Days, with symbols of the great destruction of a Christian culture to the founding of the first school by Brother Rice in Waterford, Ireland in 1802. The harsh conditions of the period are further reflected in a scene which shows the pupils of a hedge school sitting on the ground.
The center of the composition shows a boy being taken in hand by Brother Rice. A prosperous entrepreneur, Mr. Rice was particularly sensitive to the social justice issues of his day. He had intervened to remove the child from the slave crew of a ship docked in Waterford.
Our Lady, to whom Brother Rice had great devotion, dominates the top center of the mural where she is seen reaching out to the world as if pleading to these Christian Brothers to continue their mission in other lands. The mission abroad is still further depicted in the group of youth as going out into the world, while overhead the text in Latin of the Order reads: FACERE ET DOCERE (to do and to teach).
Watch below the video shared by Teacher Nedko Bucev from Bergen Catholic High School regarding the process of restauration of the mural
I'm an art instructor at Bergen Catholic High School since 2018. My teaching strategy is based on building artistic skills and inspire students to develop their creativity and talent. Former Bergen Catholic Crusaders are currently students of art at Princeton, Stamford, and Pratt. Our art program includes drawing, painting, digital photography, and digital art.