Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America




Blessed Edmund Rice

His heart was filled with a passion that lit a fire
that expanded to every continent.
The passion was a love for God
to be found within each man and woman,
especially the poorest.

The late Pope, John Paul II, declared Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, 'Blessed’ on October 6,1996.

Who was this man? ... successful businessman, husband and father, widower and a man moved by a desire to serve his God in a new way by ministering to the young people of his city, Waterford, Ireland. Edmund Rice had been born at Westcourt, Callan, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland in 1762.

From the influence of his family, particularly his mother, at an early age Edmund showed great kindness to the poor. After some education from a local hedge school master, at the age of seventeen he left his native Callan to work for his uncle, who had a business in Waterford city. Edmund was taken at the number of young boys who were running about the streets and no one seemed to care about them. After a while Edmund opened up his own chandler shop (a person who supplies goods to ships) and had a successful career. Always, however, he continued to live out the works of mercy towards the poor around him in the city.

At the age of twenty-five Edmund married Mary Elliot. By now every person in Waterford knew Edmund. He soon became one of the richest men in the city. His young wife was soon to give birth to his first child. Then tragedy struck. While his wife was riding in a carriage her horse panicked and Mary was thrown and killed instantly. The baby she was carrying was saved but was born too early. The baby, a girl to be named Mary, was born handicapped. When news got back to Edmund that his wife was dead he was devastated.

Thus began the long journey to discover God’s plan for him. He eventually sold his business and started a school for poor children in New Street in Waterford. Most of his business friends thought he was mad, to give up a good life to work with wild and scruffy children. But there was a problem getting anyone to teach them, none of educated teachers would teach the poor children. They were afraid of them. One night while Edmund was praying there was a knock at the door. When Edmund opened the door he got a shock, his two friends from Callan, Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn had come to help him. They had heard that he was looking for people to help him. After that, things started to get better. More people came to help him with his work. He formed his little band of followers into a religious brotherhood, the Gentlemen of the Presentation, following the rule of the Presentation Sisters, adapted for a men’s congregation.

The little band grew and was accepted and promoted by the Bishop of Waterford. As the brotherhood expanded into other dioceses around Ireland, it became apparent that the congregation would need to be under the Pope with its own Superior General in charge rather than individual bishops in individual dioceses.

With this step taken, there was again sadness. Some Brothers in the Cork community wanted to remain under the Bishop of Cork. They developed as the Presentation Brothers.

At the age seventy-six, Edmund retired. Although he was retired he was never far from his Brothers. In his later years Edmund suffered from arthritis. This meant he had to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. One day Edmund became very ill and he fell into a coma.

On the 29th of August 1844 Edmund Ignatius Rice died. Large crowds filled the streets around Edmund’s house. Catholics and non-Catholics, the well to do and especially the poor gathered on the streets of Waterford to honor this great Man.