Edmund Ignatius Rice, 1762-1844

Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers, came from the small town of Callan in County Kilkenny where he was born on 1st June, 1762 and where his family was involved in extensive farming. His parents saw to it that Edmund was well educated. He was intelligent and showed early signs of good business acumen.

As a young man he came to the bustling port city of Waterford and worked in his uncle’s business. He was talented and energetic and soon became a very wealthy man. In 1785 he fell in love and married Mary Elliot. However, his happiness was shattered with the tragic death of his wife just four years later. Mary died in childbirth and Edmund was left with a handicapped daughter.

After the death of his wife, Edmund devoted more time to prayer and works of charity. He was one of the few men to attend Mass daily and receive Holy Communion every Sunday. This was a most unusual practice at the time. In 1802 he set up a free school for poor young people. Having provided for his daughter, Mary, who was cared for by his family, he left his comfortable house and lived over the school.

Influenced by the work of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters, he gathered around him a group of men, forming in 1808 a religious community of Brothers dedicated to ‘raising up the poor’. Today he is honoured as the Founder of both the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. Many others were attracted by his vision and generosity, and the educational mission of the Brothers spread throughout Ireland and to many parts of the world. All followers of Edmund Rice are committed to education as liberation.

On 6 October 1996, at the end of a long process and after the acceptance of a miracle worked through his intercession, Edmund was declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II at a memorable ceremony in Rome. His feast-day is celebrated on 5 May each year. In 2003, Br Donal Blake, was appointed Postulator to lead the process from beatification to canonisation and, if the Lord ordain it so, it should not be too long before Edmund is declared ‘Saint Edmund’.