The Christian Brothers

Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, Founder of the Christian Brothers.

Edmund Ignatius Rice ( 1762 – 1844 ), was born into a farming family in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. He was educated at home, due to restrictions which the Penal Laws placed on Catholics, by a friar from the local Augustinian community. Edmund spent a further two years in education with the Augustinians in Kilkenny City. At seventeen he went to work at his uncle’s import-export business in Waterford. He later inherited this business. He married at twenty five years but his wife died two years later leaving him with a handicapped infant daughter. Edmund was a devout man and he desired a religious life. Bishop Hussey of Waterford drew his attention to the bands of uneducated boys, due to the Penal Laws, roaming the streets and asked him if he planned to abandon them. He sold his business, arranged for his daughter’s care and opened his first school in 1802 in a makeshift converted stable in New Street, Waterford. Carrick-on Suir and Dungarvan followed shortly after.

The Archbishop of Dublin in 1812, established a Christian Brother community in Dublin then a second community was founded in 1818 and by 1907 there were ten communities in Dublin educating more than 6000 Pupils. These establishments comprised primary and secondary schools, orphanages, industrial schools and a large deaf and dumb institution, The Limerick community was founded in 1816 and enlargements were made in 1825 and 1828, while many houses were opened later on in the principal towns of the country.

In 1820 the Christian Brothers was the first Irish order of men formally approved by a charter from Rome and having many members, the order gradually spread not only through the principal Irish towns but also to Liverpool, London, and other large centres in England. Having gradually strengthened itself in the British Isles during the remaining years of the nineteenth century, the institute ultimately extended its influence into distant countries.  From Gibraltar to New Zealand and from Australia to Newfoundland the brothers carried the standard of Irish monastic education then, in 1886  they extended their influence to India and New York, the first in the United States in 1906.

To-day Christian Brothers schools can be found in all continents. Edmund was beatified on 6th Oct 1996 and became known as Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice.