Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America




Edmund's Charism Is Planted in the Americas

The genesis of the establishment of the Christian Brothers educational system on the North American continent began with the founding of St. Patrick's Hall School in St. John's, Newfoundland. A charitable society, the Benevolent Irish Society (BIS), founded by Irish immigrants, had established in St. John's the Orphan Asylum, a school for deprived children. But the school's persistent failure over many years prompted the society to seek the help of the Irish Christian Brothers founded in 1802 by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice. Invited by the society and by Bishop Thomas J. Power, the bishop of St. John's, the first community of three Brothers – Jerome Prenderville, Columba Mitchell and Francis Tully – arrived from Cork , Ireland, on January 20, 1876, to be joined on arrival by the founding Superior, Brother F. Luke Holland. On January 31, 1876, the Brothers began the first day of school in the Orphan Asylum, with 260 boys in attendance. Because of the Brothers effective teaching, the school became so popular that the BIS decided to erect newer and more suitable accommodations. This new building was completed in August 1880 and called St. Patrick's Hall. The Brothers' permanent home, Mount St. Francis, was also opened in 1880 and became the "Mother House" of the Christian Brothers in the New World. Three additional foundations – St. Bonaventure's College (1889), Holy Cross (1890) and Mount Cashel (1898) – were established in St. John' before the end of the 19th century.

Expansion in the United States followed in the early 1900s. Monsignor James W. Power pastor of All Saints parish in New York City, invited the Irish Christian Brothers to teach at All Saints School. With Brother Patrick J. Ryan as founding Superior, a community of four Brothers arrived in New York on August 29, 1906, and began teaching in September. Three years later in 1909 All Hallows School was established, to be followed in 1911 by Briscoe Memorial School in Kent, Washington. Soon St. Mary's College was opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1913, followed by two additional Canadian foundations: St. Louis College (1915) in Victoria, B.C., and Vancouver College (1922) in Vancouver, B.C. This rapid expansion was planned and directed by the Brothers' General Council in Ireland. It soon became obvious that a local governing entity would better oversee the challenges of educational growth and expansion in the United States and Canada. Consequently, in 1916 the American Province was formally begun with Brother Patrick J. Ryan as first Provincial. Five new schools were opened within the next ten years and another ten schools founded in the 1930s and 1940s. Over the years training centers were established at different locations: Mamaroneck (1918), South Kortright (1954) and Lakewood (1956). The Santa Maria foundation in West Park, New York, opened in 1921, and was the training center that held the longest attachment for both the American and Canadian Brothers.

With huge numbers joining the Congregation, unprecedented school expansion occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, chiefly due, under God, to the inspiration and drive of Brother Austin Loftus (1904-1979). During his provincial administration, 16 contracts for schools in Canada and the West Indies were signed in a six-year period. In 1966 this expansion and growth resulted in a change in the governance structure from one American Province to three distinct provinces of Canada (which had become a vice-province in 1963), Eastern United States and Western United States. By 1976 the Eastern Province, besides conducting training centers in West Park and New Rochelle, administered Iona College and 16 schools in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, together with three schools in Peru. The Western Province conducted training centers in Lockport, Illinois, and administered ten schools in California, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, Washington and Hawaii. In the same year the Canadian Province, with its training centers and administration in Mono Mills, Ontario, administered 17 educational institutions in Newfoundland, Ontario, British Columbia, Dominica, and Antigua. However, a dramatic decline in the number of religious vocations in the 1980s and 1990s prompted the closure of some foundations in all three provinces. In the 2000s, with this decline continuing, active planning began for the amalgamation of the three American provinces into one North American Province. In 2004 at the second tri-province conference in Cornwall, Ontario, agreement was reached to return the governance of the three North American provinces to one Edmund Rice Christian Brother North American Province. On July 1st 2005, the new province began officially with the installation of the Province Leadership Team. The members of the first PLT were: Br. Hugh O'Neill, Province Leader; Br. Brian Walsh, Deputy Province Leader; and Brs. Mark Murphy, Kieran Murphy, Nicholas Morris, Dermot Bray, Dan Casey, Dave Lucas, and Kevin Griffith as PLT members.