Who was Edmund Rice?

Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, was a Roman Catholic missionary and educationalist. Edmund was the founder of two religious institutes of religious brothers: the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers.

Born in Callan, Ireland, in 1762, Edmund came to the bustling city port of Waterford as a young man. He was talented and energetic and soon became very wealthy. Married to Mary Elliot, in 1789 he experienced her tragic death soon after she gave birth to their daughter Mary. Deeply saddened by her loss, Edmund entered a time of mourning. As his daughter continued to open the depths of his love, his relationship with God deepened. In his own brokenness, he was moved with compassion to recognise the brokenness of those around him. He entered more deeply into their struggle and found in the story of Jesus the call to liberation that is at the heart of what Jesus preached and in which his church is engaged.

The Ireland of Edmund’s day was an unjust place where many lived in poverty and social structures deeply oppressed the majority of the population. In 1802 he set up a free school for boys living in poverty. His aim was to promote an education that recognised the dignity of each individual and thus he sought to liberate them from their ignorance of God and of their Catholic faith, while at the same time empowering them with an education which would enable them to rise from the demeaning poverty and sense of hopelessness in which they were trapped. Thus Edmund sought to liberate individuals and indeed to free his society from oppression. 


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