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BLESSED EDMUND RICE 1762 – 1844
Our Founder, Blessed Edmund Rice, started his first
school in a converted stable in Waterford, Ireland, in
1802– two hundred years ago. He was 40 years old
and was a very successful businessman whose young
wife, Mary, (nee Elliott) had died tragically in 1789, leaving
Edmund to care for their retarded baby daughter, also
called Mary. The double tragedy of his wife’s death and
his daughter’s disability led the compassionate Edmund,
(already well known for his works of charity), to further
efforts on behalf of the poor in his city. His school was
a way of empowering poor boys, deprived of an education
because of their religion and their poverty.
Edmund attracted like-minded men to join him in his
venture. He dedicated his fortune to establish schools
and devised a rule of life for himself and his companions.
They lived together in community, prayed together, worked
together and had all things in common. Edmund’s ground
gained papal approval in 1820 and were thereafter known
as the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Some of the
group preferred to live according to the first rule Edmund
adapted from that of the Presentation Sisters. In time
this group became the Brothers of the Presentation Rule,
and they look to Edmund as their revered Founder.
Edmund’s Schools spread throughout Ireland and England
before his death on 29th August 1844. He had guided
his Brothers through difficult times, facing opposition from
government and church, and even from some of his own
Brothers. “Providence is our inheritance” was his guiding
principle, and he prayed continually to the God in whom
Four years after Edmund’s death two Brothers, trained
by the Christian Brothers in Ireland, arrived in Kolkata
and assumed responsibility for the boys in the orphanage
in Moorghihatta and a school in Bow Bazar Street.
Others joined them. The orphanage was transferred to
Dum Dum (St. Mary’s Orphanage) in 1947, and the Bow
Bazar Schools became St. Joseph’s College and St.
George’s Free School. The Kolkata Society amalgamated
with the parent body in Ireland in 1890.
Two hundred years down the road, the work
of the Congregation of Christian Brothers and its co-workers
continues. Let us thank God for this.