Edmund Rice

Edmund Rice was a man of great and expansive heart. His deep faith, creative vision and energetic know-how enabled him to build bridges from what had been his experience of life in eighteenth century Ireland to what needed to emerge in the nineteenth century and beyond.

Edmund Ignatius Rice was born on 1 June 1762 in Callan, Ireland, during the terrible Penal Times.

Edmund was fortunate, as a Catholic, to receive a good education at home and in schools in Callan and Kilkenny.

Edmund joined his Uncle Michael Rice's business in Waterford, one of Europe's busiest ports, supplying ships for long trips at sea. He eventually took over the business and at the age of 23 he married Mary Elliott in 1785.

Tragedy struck in January 1789, for his wife died after giving birth to a disabled daughter, Mary. Edmund's life was never to be the same.

Now a wealthy man, Edmund was increasingly disturbed with the lot of the poor Irish Catholics. Thirteen years after his wife died, and having provided for his daughter, he sold his business and began a night school for the "quay kids" of Waterford.

Edmund's first helpers deserted him leaving him desperate, but then two men from his native Callan joined him, not only to teach but also to help Edmund found a religious order to educate poor boys.

By 1825 Edmund Rice and his 30 Christian Brothers were educating, free of charge, 5,500 boys in 12 different towns and cities. Many were also being clothed and fed.

In 1829 the laws of the land caught up with Edmund and he was told by the Duke of Wellington that his order existed contrary to the law. His order faced extinction.

Fortunately, the Christian Brothers were not suppressed and by Edmund's death on 29 August 1844, Christian Brothers were educating boys in Ireland, England and Australia (Sydney). Today the Christian Brothers continue Edmund Rices' work of Presence, Compassion and Liberation. In Australia, we are part of the Oceania Province.