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 Christain Brothers continue Edmund Rices' work of Presence, Compassion and Liberation.  In Australia we are part of the Oceania Province.

The Spirituality of Edmund Rice

The Number For

Archbishop Frank Little gave a wonderful homily when he joined the whole school community in the Wilding Centre in May 2007 to celebrate Mass in honour of Blessed Edmund Rice. Below is an edited version of his homily:

The spirit of Edmund Rice pervades this college. Let’s see if you know something about him. What was his favourite number? I’ll bet you chose an odd number. Right? Actually, Edmund’s was even; it was four. How do I know? Because throughout his life he was a ‘for’ man, for and not four.

Edmund’s whole life was spent doing things for those in need. The number four reminded him every time he used it that he had meaning, purpose in his life. He did things always with a great deal of Know Why and not just Know How. His was the purposeful ‘for’; the Creed we say each Sunday at Mass states that Jesus Christ came down from heaven ‘for’ us and for our salvation.

According to your website, this College presents before you the values of learning, family and fullness of life. All the efforts made at St Kevin’s through the year fundamentally are driven by that motive; together that is you are ‘for’ — learning, family and fullness of life.
Our gospel reading and our moving drama played by Year 4 gave us a similar message; the Good Samaritan was a ‘for’ person. When we approach a particular task ‘for’, with purpose, with clarity of vision, with inner conviction, sure of why we are doing it, there is music in our step; we are in phase, on the go, in action not stationary, dynamic not static, a dream realiser, a person with intent. We are cool. That’s the spirit of the Good Samaritan, that’s the spirit of Jesus Christ, that’s the spirit of Edmund Rice. Edmund’s commitment for those in need energised him throughout his life. His life was for poor people, not for himself. He was a ‘for’ person.

Friendships formed among ‘for’ people portray a special quality. The bond which links people working together for a common cause breaks down the barriers of fear which surround most of us. We know they are people we can trust, with whom we can be open, who will respect our vulnerability, affirm us and inspire us. The essence of the God in whose image we are made is relational; there is a full commitment of the Persons of the Trinity to each other in love. ‘For’ people forging a friendship give us a human experience of that God of love.

You have wasted your time if you have not captured a sense of ‘for-ness’, a spirit of ‘for-ness’, the dynamic of ‘for-ness.’ You are part of a large group on three campuses who together commit yourselves to being always for learning, for family and for fullness of life. That’s fantastic! Edmund Rice is in your midst, giving you example, inspiring you.

Archbishop Frank Little