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1810 A letter from Edmund Rice describing his education System 

Edmund Rice to the Archbishop of Cashel.

This, the earliest extant letter of the Founder, was written in reply to a request for details of the Mount Sion school system. It shows Edmund's commitment to the religious formation of his pupils and the advanced system of school management he had developed within a few years of the foundation of his Institute. (Original in the Cashel Diocesan Archives.)

My Lord,
I should have sent the enclosed regulations of our schools to Yr. Grace before now, but waiting for an opportunity of some person going to Thurles. - Yr. Grace I hope will be able to select something out of them for to save the school of Thurles.  The half-hour's explanation of the Catechism I hold to be the most salutary part of the system.  It's the most laborious to the teachers; however, if it was ten times what it is. I must own we are amply paid in seeing such a Reformation in the Children.

Drs. Moylan & McCarthy have sent us two young men to serve a Noviceship for the purpose of establishing our Institute in Cork. I trust in the goodness of God that it will spread before long in most parts of the Kingdom - indeed it would give me particular satisfaction to see it prosper in Thurles.

May God give your Grace life to see this effected. Anything in our power to serve this purpose Yr. Grace can freely command.

I am, my Lord
Your Grace's Most Obt. & Humble Servant
Edmd. Rice

Waterford 9 May 1810.

Enclosed with the letter was the following description of the education system:

Our schools open at nine o'clock in the morning at which time the business of the Masters who attend immediately commences. The boys whom we instruct are divided. Those who are advanced, so as at least to be able to read tolerably well, with others who are taught arithmetic, etc., occupy an upper room. The lower room is for such as are taught spelling, reading and writing on slates. In the upper room the boys are arranged as much as may be, according to their degrees of improvement, at double desks 12 on each. Over each desk a monitor or superintendent is appointed, who keeps an account of the conduct of those committed to his care - that they are at school in due time, diligently attend their school duties, etc. The desks are divided into different districts each of which is committed to the care of a master.  

In the morning, the monitors of the several districts prepare the copy books of the boys under their care, and bring them to their respective masters, to have copy lines written or pieces to write from - pens prepared for writing, etc. While the boys wait for the copy books they are employed in looking over the tasks for the day. The writing of the copies usually commences as much as may be at the same time, that the masters may visit their respective desks, and give particular instructions relative to writing properly, and according to approved methods.

After the copies are written, Reading Lessons commence, the boys of each desk coming up according to their turn. The books made use of are Gahan's History of the New and Old Testament.  Comments are made, and familiar moral instructions are given the classes in the course of the lesson by the master. Whilst one class reads and hears instruction, the other desks are employed at sums, etc. At a convenient time the monitors question the boys of their desks in spelling and catechism tasks and make reports to the masters accordingly.  

At the half hour before twelve o'clock the bell rings for giving general moral instructions, at which time one of the masters whose turn it is, having the boys all assembled about him, explains the Catechism or out of Gobinet or other books that are deemed fit, gives instructions suited to the capacity of the children.  

When the clock strikes twelve the Angelus and Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity with a few other devotional prayers are recited, after which the boys are dismissed and the school closes till one. At one, school opens again and from that to three the exercises are similar to those of the morning as nearly as time will admit. At three, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, Salve Regina and a few other prayers are recited, when the boys are dismissed and school closes for the day. They are not allowed to play or to keep company with any other boys but those of the school when out of it.

The children in the lower school are arranged in classes according to their degree of improvement as in the upper room.  Those who write on slates at desks, the others on forms or other convenient seats. The desks are single, seven boys range at each and every boy provided with a slate to write on. Monitors are appointed for the desks as before mentioned whose duties are similar. Such assistants in fact are found so necessary that they are made use of even down to the lowest classes.  

The masters who attend, commence the business of the morning by writing copies for the classes committed to their care. The copyline for the boys of a desk is the same, they being arranged, as before remarked, so that those who are nearly equal in improvement and abilities are kept together.  

Each class writes the copy set them 4 or 5 times over without getting the copy line changed and always when finished requests the master to inspect them, and according to his decision inflict slight punishments on each other for defects in their writing - a permission given them for the purpose of stimulating one another to proper exertions. The masters give instructions in spelling, reading, etc., occasionally, so that the boys may at least get two lessons; they are besides questioned in spelling and Catechism tasks by the master or the monitor if found fit.

Familiar moral instructions are given occasionally at the time of reading or otherwise by the masters who attend this school, suited to the weak capacity of those under their care. But no general instructions as in the upper room; the time appointed for that purpose being employed in teaching prayers and Catechism to the most ignorant. At twelve the Angelus etc., as above, after which they are dismissed till one. From one till three the exercises are the same as in the morning.  

N.B. The slates that the boys write on, are ruled on one side with a sharp pointed piece of iron so that an impression is thereby made on the slate, and that thus when they have an occasion to blot out or deface any letter that they wish to improve, or the entire copy, the ruling remains. The other side is left for sums, etc., and of course not ruled.  

General examinations of the copies, sums, etc., are made twice a week in the upper school room, and rewards and punishments dealt out accordingly. More general ones are held two or three times a year, and such as are found most deserving receive gifts proportioned to their merit. Each boy reads about a page and a half, while the others of his desk stand with him, having all the same books, and liberty of correcting him when necessary. The half hour for instruction is given on Fridays for a general examination of the Catechism. Unless for some faults which rarely occur whipping is never inflicted  

A boy who has the care of about one hundred and fifty pious books, most of which are numbered, on every Friday evening distributes them amongst the monitors of each desk, of which he makes an entry; and they are obliged to return them the morning of the day week. The monitors distribute them to his boys giving a choice to the most deserving of which he also takes an account, by this regulation we seldom lose a book.  We also supply the boys who are bound out apprentices with Pious Books, who are in general obliged to go to Sacraments once a month; and some are allowed by their Confessors to go more frequent.

The confessions of all the children are heard every year on the 15th July, 15th Oct., 15th Jan. and 15th April, provided nothing interfered on those days to prevent it in which case it is deferred to another day. The boys read the books for their parents at night, and on Sundays and Holydays, and instruct them otherwise when they can do it with prudence, from which we find much good to result.  

We have a clock in the school, the better to direct them in the regulating the time, and at every time it strikes, silence is observed all over the schools, and every boy blesses himself, says the Hail Mary, and makes some short pious aspirations which continues about a minute when they bless themselves again and resume their business.

1811 - 1812 Expansion to Cork and Dublin

According to Austin Dunphy in Origin (1822): There were now three houses of the Institute established: one in this city, one in Carrick-on-Suir and one in Dungarvan. The subjects continued to discharge the duties of their state, so that nothing scarce worthy of remark occurred till March 1810, when the Rev. Doctor Moylan, Bishop of Cork, sent two young men to this house for the purpose of serving their noviceship with the intention of calling them back to Cork to commence a foundation there.  These young men arrived here on the 17th of March 1810.  They remained in the house till November 1811 when they set off for Cork to begin the labours of the Institute in that city. At first a temporary house and School were provided for them, which they occupied till their present extensive buildings were finished. 

Another young man came from Cork to this in June 1811 for the purpose of serving his noviceship here for the house intended to be established in that city. He remained here till October 1812 when he set out to join the other two. Doctor Moylan was a zealous friend of the Institute. It may be said he was the Founder of the Orders of the Ursuline and Presentation Nuns in this Country.

According to Houlihan, Overcoming Evil With Good, 1997: Nano Nagle’s city of Cork was the next place looking for the services of Edmund Rice’s Brothers. Cork was a larger city than Waterford and although the Presentation Sisters had been established there in 1775, there were no schools for boys of the poorest families. Bishop Moylan had played a major role in helping Nano found her Order and he had been in contact with Bishop Power of Waterford encouraging him to give his fullest support to Edmund Rice and his community of teaching Brothers. Now the old Bishop was most desirous of having Edmund’s Brothers working for the boys of his Diocese. He had visited Waterford and with Bishop Power went to Mount Sion to see for himself the kind of work the Brothers were doing. He was mightily impressed and resolved to bring the Brothers to Cork. The Bishop made the request of Brother Rice for Brothers to come to his Diocese, but the Founder had to refuse because he had none to spare. Edmund did offer to train any men whom the Bishop would send to Mount Sion so Moylan wasted no time on his return to Cork to call a meeting of the schools’ committee, at which he described what the Brothers were doing in Mount Sion. Before the meeting was over, two men offered the Bishop their services to go to Mount Sion to begin training for the Brotherhood. They arrived there on St. Patrick’s Day, 1809 and were welcomed by the Founder. Brothers Jerome O’Connor and Baptist Leonard, two years later returned to their native city and “began the work of gratuitous education in the small schoolhouse, Chapel Lane immediately behind the Cathedral." (ref. Burke)

This was November of 1811. Brother Rice had intimated to Bishop Power that “Brother Jerome O'Connor would be the better of the two for Director, which was arranged accordingly by Bishop Moylan. The older brother of Brother Baptist entered the Cork community in 1812 and would be known as Brother Patrick Joseph Leonard. He had been a clerk in a bank who was considering the priesthood, but when he informed Bishop Moylan of his decision to become a Brother, the old Bishop is said to have replied: “Thank God, I now have no fears for my poor children; they will have a father."

Daniel MurrayAccording to Austin Dunphy in Origin (1822): In 1812 in the month of May the house in Hanover Street East, Dublin was founded. The Most Rev. Doctor Murray, whose zealous exertions to promote the welfare of the Institute in that city , deserves particular notice. His Grace not only took its interests warmly to heart in the commencement, but continued and still continues to be its sincere friend.

According to Houlihan, Overcoming Evil With Good, 1997: The next Irish city to claim the services of Edmund Rice's Brothers was the capital of the country, Dublin. It was Archbishop John Troy and his Coadjutor, Archbishop Daniel Murray, who invited the Brothers to the Archdiocese. The association of Brother Rice with this latter churchman was to be a fortuitous blessing both for his little band of Brothers and for Ireland. “Doctor Murray saw the utility of securing without delay a branch of this young and flourishing society [Christian Brothers] and Mr. Rice, at once yielding to the solicitations of His Grace, deputed two of the Brothers to proceed to Dublin and open their mission amongst the poor children there. By His Grace's influence and bounty they established in the parish of St. Andrew's, over which he then more particularly presided, renting a small dwelling-house in Moira-Place, where they erected a little oratory, and resided except in the intervals devoted to the duties of attendance to the children." (ref. Meagher)

"An application to open a school in the metropolis had a special interest for Edmund. Negotiations for setting up the new foundation brought him into personal contact with one of the greatest prelates of the age whose assistance in later days would be invaluable”. (Normoyle) Edmund went all out to insure the success of this newest mission. His first task, and it was no easy one, was to convince Bishop Power of Waterford that he could spare two Brothers to go to Dublin. There were several newcomers entering Mount Sion for training as Brothers just at the time, so the Bishop reluctantly agreed to lend two candidates to go to Dublin until such time as Dublin would supply its own men for the new school. The Founder happily informed Dr. Murray that Brothers were coming to the Archdiocese. Br. John Baptist Grosvenor and a companion were chosen for the venture. In a letter to the Archbishop, Brother Rice wrote: “I resign into your Grace's hands every dominion whatever over the subjects in Dublin; and shall allow them during their lives a stipend of forty-four pounds a year." It was this offer of financial assistance that troubled Bishop Power when he found out about it. He realized that Edmund was willing to make sacrifices for this undertaking but as the major superior, Bishop Power also knew that Mount Sion could ill afford to financially support the new community in Dublin. He made it quite clear to Archbishop Murray that this grant could not be continued. “Under these circumstances where the existence of our own house and school is brought into jeopardy your Grace will perceive that I cannot by any means agree to have any disbursements or remittances for the future made from the Waterford establishment which has been formed not solely by Mr. Rice's means but also by means exclusively intended for the diocese.” This incident brought home to Edmund Rice some of the administrative problems he would have to encounter as his brotherhood expanded throughout Ireland. He experienced the limitations of the system in which he was involved. He knew there would be more clashes like this in the future because he was getting requests for Brothers from Bishops around the country. For the moment, if Brothers were requested by Bishops in other places, it seemed that the only way he could help them was by training men whom said Bishops would send to Mount Sion for that purpose. As to the finances to support schools that were for non-tuition paying students, this was a matter that would challenge him for the rest of his life.

Edmund’s position during this first decade of his new life was that of Founder. At times he was the Principal of the school and Superior of the community at Mount Sion and he was also responsible for training men from other places who wished to join his group. On completion of their novitiate they returned to their separate towns to establish schools similar to Mount Sion. Once established, each house was independent and could receive and train new members. The local Bishop was the only higher superior and was the only one who could transfer a brother to a different house. Likewise the Bishop appointed the Superior of each house. All the Brothers looked to Brother Rice with respect and reverence because he was the Founder but he had no legal authority over the brothers outside of Mount Sion and his authority there ended when his term ended. When Brother Rice's term as Superior of Mount Sion was completed in 1814, Bishop Power appointed Austin Dunphy to the position. Brother Austin Dunphy served for a few years in this capacity until he was assigned to another community.

1871 Conversations about becoming a Papal Congregation

According to Brother Austin Dunphy, writing to the De la Salle Brothers in Paris in 1826: In the early part of 1817 the Most Rev. Dr. Murray present Archbishop of Dublin was on his way from Rome, where he had been on business connected with the Irish Church . His Grace stopped in Paris for some days. Here he became acquainted with your Institute. He saw your Brief and Rules and he brought a copy of them to Ireland. He submitted them to us. We were immediately convinced of their wisdom, and adopted them subject to the limitation mentioned above. We memorialised the Holy See and our memorial was certified by the Archbishop of Dublin and other Prelates. In Consequence of this memorial the Holy Father granted us a Brief confirming our Institute.

According to Austin Dunphy in Origin (1822): In the account we have given of the first Establishment of the Institute in Dublin, we noticed the zeal manifested by the Most Rev. Doctor Murray for its welfare: This pious Prelate on his return from Rome in the year 1816, where he had been for some time transacting affairs relative to, the Irish Church, on his way, through France, learned that there was in that Country a Society of Laymen, whose object was the Education of the poor. On inquiry he found that' their Institute had been confirmed, and that the Society was governed by a Superior General. The members of this Society are called “Brothers of the Christian Schools." Always attentive to whatever would tend to improve the morals of the poor, this worthy Prelate made himself acquainted with the plan of life of these good Brothers; and finding their object to be the same as ours, procured a copy of their Rules and Constitutions. Doctor Murray was one of those Prelates who thought that it would tend much to the government and stability of the Institute, were the Brothers subject to a Superior elected from among themselves.  Immediately on his arrival in Dublin, which was early in the month of January in 1817, he submitted to the Brothers there, the Rules and Constitutions of the French Brothers, together with the Brief which approved of, and confirmed their Institute. This Brief was translated into English, and a copy of it was sent to every house in The Institute. On the perusal of this Brief many of the Brothers were much pleased with the plan of life and government traced out in it. They were even convinced that a system of government similar to that pointed out in this Brief, could alone, under the Divine Protection, secure discipline and stability to their Institute.  The members of the different houses communicated their thoughts on the subject to each other, and prayed for the light and direction of the Holy Ghost, in the change which they contemplated.

They accordingly met in this house (i.e. Mount Sion, Waterford), and commenced Chapter on Tuesday, the 19th of August 1817. They, after invoking the light of the Holy Ghost, and after much discussion and deliberation, came to the resolution of embracing the mode of government specified in the French Brief. They also agreed to adopt other Articles contained in that Brief which were considered to answer the circumstances of this Country.

Such Articles were extracted from the French Brief as were considered to suit the circumstances of this Country, as has been already remarked, and others were added. The business of the meeting was now over, and it was dissolved on the 26th of August: the members of it returned to their respective Establishments. These Articles were translated into Latin, and transmitted to Rome, together with a Memorial from the Brothers, certified by the Most Rev. Doctor Troy and the Most Rev. Doctor Murray, praying the Holy See to confirm them.

According to Houlihan, Overcoming Evil With Good, 1997: Bishop John Power and Brother Edmund Rice had a very close relationship and they usually agreed on matters pertaining to the brothers. That was fine when all the schools were within the Diocese of Waterford but problems arose when the brothers expanded into Dublin and Cork where each of these places had a different bishop. As time went on, Edmund realized that all of these higher superiors (bishops) in the various dioceses where the brothers had houses made it difficult for the Brothers to have any kind of unity and it hampered him when he was trying to give assistance in places that needed additional Brothers. It would take another ten years to deal with this issue and to come up with a solution that resulted in two possible approaches and two separate brotherhoods.

Edmund had already experienced the tension between his two good friends — Bishop Power of Waterford and Archbishop Murray of Dublin. That was nothing compared to the problems that erupted after Bishop Power's death in 1816 and when Bishop Robert Walsh became Bishop of Waterford. In the meantime, Brothers opened schools in Thurles and Limerick — now there were two more Bishops to complicate matters. The bottom line to all of this was the fact that each Bishop was concerned with the portion of the Church over which he had jurisdiction. Edmund and the Brothers were content to serve under any Bishop but they also desired the freedom to expand into any diocese that wanted their services.It was Archbishop Troy of Dublin, a Dominican, who first suggested to Brother Rice that the Brothers might consider becoming a Papal Congregation since if this were the case they would be directly under the Pope and they would be free to serve anywhere in the universal Church. This would require the Brothers to have one of their own members as Superior General who would administer the whole congregation.

Edmund and the Brothers discussed this possibility at many meetings and made it the subject of their prayer for several months. Archbishop Murray and Father Peter Kenney, a Jesuit theologian, strongly suggested that Edmund should apply to Rome for the kind of arrangement that the French Brothers of Jean Baptiste De la Salle had received from the Pope for their society and who were free to send Brothers to any diocese. The Founder had copies of the French Constitutions sent to each house so his brothers could read them, discuss the document and pray over it. This was Edmund’s usual style of leadership. He always consulted his men before making any major decision.

Edmund invited the Director of each house to come to a meeting at Mount Sion in August of 1817 in order to determine whether or not they wanted to pursue the course suggested by the Archbishop. After a week of deliberations, the brothers unanimously resolved “to adopt a style of government similar to that outlined in the French Brief, with rules and constitutions ...and to forward the articles to Rome for approval." (Burke) The formal request was made to the Holy Father immediately after the meeting and it was accompanied by strong recommendations from Most Rev. Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Murray and other prelates, earnestly beseeching the Holy Father to grant the petition of the brothers.

Between 1802 and 1822 nine establishments were founded in Ireland: Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, Dungarvan, Cork, Hanover St. Dublin, Cappoquin, Thurles, Limerick, and Mill Street Dublin. 

1817 Early Contacts with the De la Salle Brothers in France 

The Brothers of the Christian Schools, or De la Salle Brothers, had been founded in Rouen, France in 1680. Their first Training School was opened in Rheims 1685. In 1724 the Congregation was approved by a Papal Bull of Pope Benedict XIII.

As is explained in the earliest contacts with them, Edmund had heard of their Institute and believed that his Brothers could learn a lot from them.

Frere-GuillomeBrother Austin Dunphy, Second Assistant to Edmund Rice, writing to Frere Guillaume (right), the Superior General of the De La Salle Congregation, Paris:

Waterford.
May 8th, 1826.
Very Venerable Sir ,

You who have been chosen, I may say, by Almighty God, to preside over and govern an Institute, the object of which is to give children a religious and moral Education gratuitously, will feel pleased on hearing that in this country a Religious Society has been established for the gratuitous Education of poor boys.

It will, I am sure, be a further satisfaction to you to learn that this Society has adopted your Brief and Common Rules, as far as they could be observed in this country  and that our late Holy Father, Pius VII approved of and confirmed the Institute by a “Brief” bearing date 5th day of Sept. 1820. In the year 1817 there were only 6 houses of the Institute in Ireland. The Bishop of the Diocese in which the Brothers lived, was their Superior. Having no Superior General of its own, the Society was divided into separate small bodies, and hence its progress had been slow from its foundation in this City in the year 1804 by Mr. Ignatius Rice , who is the Superior General at present, to the period above mentioned.

In the early part of 1817 the Most Rev. Dr. Murray present Archbishop of Dublin was on his way from Rome, where he had been on business connected with the Irish Church. His Grace stopped in Paris for some days. Here he became acquainted with your Institute. He saw your Brief and Rules and he brought a copy of them to Ireland. He submitted them to us. We were immediately convinced of their wisdom, and adopted them subject to the limitation mentioned above. We memorialised the Holy See and our memorial was certified by the Archbishop of Dublin and other Prelates. In Consequence of this memorial the Holy Father granted us a Brief confirming our Institute.

There are now eleven houses of the Institute in Ireland and 2 in England.  There are about 50 Brothers including the Novices. There are daily in all our schools about 5,150 children. The first Establishment in England was made in October last in a town called Preston: the second was made in March last in the town of Manchester. We are now solicited to make an establishment in London. We have also solicitations from various parts of Ireland. All our houses and schools are supported by our own limited means and by donations from pious Catholics.

Great efforts have been made by the English Government to pervert the Catholic youth of this country. Vast sums of money have been given by the British Parliament to various Protestant Associations for the Education of the poor Catholic children of Ireland. There were over 72,000 pounds sterling voted for this purpose last year. This sum is equal to 1,728,000 of your Francs. A larger sum will, in all likelihood, be voted for the same purpose this year. This money is all put into the hands of Protestants in order to bribe the poor children, and seduce them from the Catholic Faith. The country is infested with Protestant schools. Not one shilling will the Government give the Catholics for the purpose of educating their poor, although there are l0 Catholics in this country to one Protestant. From this statement you see we have great difficulties to contend with. We must rest our success on the assistance of Almighty God and on the excellence of our schools above theirs. I have been thus minute that you may see our wants the clearer and be thereby the better enabled to instruct us.

Our Superior General and his Assistants reside in this City, but they intend to remove the seat of Government to Dublin after a short time. The Most Rev. Dr. Murray, Archbishop of that city, and other Catholics of distinction have promised considerable aid towards the building of a suitable residence for them. As this intended building will in future be the place where the Superior General for the time being and his Assistants are to reside, it is of the utmost importance that a proper plan be obtained. Feeling diffident from our own inexperience, and being convinced that none is so capable of advising us on this subject as you, our Superior General, Rev. E. Ignatius Rice, has ordered me to write this letter to you, requesting you will be pleased to communicate to him such information as you deem necessary and useful on this matter, If you could forward us plans of your own residence, so much the better; if not, describe it as particular as you can.

Is the Novitiate of your Institute attached, or convenient, to the residence of the Superior and his Assistants? Is it advisable to have the Novitiate attached to the residence of the Superior General, or in the country at a considerable distance from it? Is there a school attached to the Novitiate in which the Novices are trained a little, before they are sent to conduct a school? Is it advisable that the Novices should at all attend class at school whilst in the Novitiate and before they are committed to the care of the Formateurs? Do any of the Professed Brothers besides the 4 Assistants live in the same house with the Superior of the Institute, and is there a school attached to the house in which he resides? Have the goodness to describe how a Novitiate ought to be constructed and the apartments it ought to contain.

In all these things we are desirous to follow the plan of your Institute as close as we possibly can. As we expect to commence the building in the course of the summer, I hope you will oblige us with your advice as soon as you conveniently can.

My Superior desires I may express his thanks to you for your kindness in sending him the books and the other affairs, by the Rev. Mr. Rice in July last. I wish two of our Brothers could go to France for some time. I know our Infant Institute would profit much from what they would learn from your experience and from that of your good Brothers. We are all so much engaged in the schools that none of us could be spared at present. I am convinced from reading your La Conduite that your school system far excels that of any ever adopted in this country. Would that we could see the schools in which the maxims of that most excellent book are reduced to practice!

With sentiments of the most profound respect,
I am,
Very Venerable Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
E.A. Dunphy.

N.B. Please direct your letter to Mr. Edmund I. Rice, Christian Schools, Waterford, Ireland.

This is the reply following Frere Guillaume’s letter (no longer extant) in answer to Brother Dunphy’s letter of the 8th of May:

Waterford.
July 28th, 1826.

Very Venerable Sir,

We have had the pleasure of receiving your very valuable letter of the 28th May.  Our Superior has ordered me to return you his sincere thanks for the information and good advice which you have given us, and for the plans and books which you had the kindness to say you would send us. He has been for some time back, and still is, in Dublin, endeavouring to procure an eligible plot of ground for the purpose of erecting the building on, of which l made mention in my last letter. As yet, he has not been successful but he hopes he shall before it is long.  It is the intention of the Archbishop of that City – as I stated in my former letter - to erect a respectable residence for our Superior and his Assistants, and for as many Brothers besides, as will be necessary to conduct four schools which will contain about six hundred boys. These schools are intended to be erected on a part of the premises on which the dwelling house is to be built.

We had it in contemplation to have the Novitiate on these premises also, but your letter has altered our notions with regard to this.  From the little experience we have had, we find that schools attached to the Novitiate are a cause of distraction and dissipation to the Novices.

Would you then recommend to have the Superior’s dwelling and the Novitiate together, and quite detached from any schools, or would you prefer to have the Superior General and his Assistants to live in a house to which there are schools attached, and to have the Novitiate situated in some other part of the City - unconnected with schools, but at the same time convenient enough to them for the purpose of seeing them, in the way you have mentioned, conducted by the most clever and experienced of the Senior Brothers?

In the house here, to which there are 4 schools attached which accommodate seven hundred boys, the Superior General, his two Assistants, three or four Professed Brothers and the Novices reside. The Refectory and Kitchen are common to the Novices and to the Professed, but the former have a separate Oratory, and never associate with or speak to any of the latter. There are six Novices in the house at present.

We wish to follow your system in all things, as far as the circumstances of this country will permit, and to do this, the Novices must be formed to it. You will, I hope, have the goodness to send us with the other things, an outline of the manner in which your Novices are trained, the spiritual and other exercises which they perform whilst in the Novitiate, and the ceremonial for admitting them to the Habit and to the Vows. This would afford us much useful instruction.

I will now give you the names of the different works relative to your Institute which we have had the good fortune, through your kindness to get possession of. Régles el Constitutions; La Conduite; Les douze Vertus; Le Recueil; Le Devoir; La Civilité; Meditations pour tous les Dimanches de l’année; Exercices de Piété.

Our Brother Joseph Leonard from our house in the City of Cork was obliged to go unexpectedly and rather in a hurried manner to France on business relative to that Establishment.  He will, if possible, call upon you for the drawing and books which you have for us. Have the goodness to send by him also a copy of each of your school books, a leather slapper (ferula) and anything else you may deem useful. The youth of this country are already deeply indebted to you. We have, from your example, banished all corporal punishment from our schools. Other masters are beginning to take the hint from us. I assure you, you have done no small good even in the example you have given us in this. It will, I am sure, afford you some consolation to hear of it.

... We are anxious to secure these essential points for our little Society, and we look up to you for the advice and instructions necessary for us. The kindness and sympathy which you have manifested for us in your letter, have encouraged us to have recourse to you in our doubts and difficulties. How can we sufficiently express our gratitude for your goodness in saying you would welcome our arrival in France and that you should take care our visit there should not be fruitless.  I trust in the mercy and assistance of God, we shall, before it may be long, avail ourselves of it.

Recommending myself and Brothers to your prayers and those of your Society.

I remain, very Venerable Sir,
With great respect,
Your most humble obedient servant,
E.A. Dunphy.

Please direct as before.

In August of the same year Edmund Rice himself wrote to the Superior General of the De La Salle Congregation:

Waterford,
August 19th 1826.

Very Venerable Sir,

The kindness which you have manifested for us in your letter of the 28th May, induced us to address you again at the close of the last month as well to express our gratitude for that kindness, as to submit other matters connected with the well-being of our Infant Society to you for your advice and instruction upon them. I hope you have received that letter. It is still too soon for us to expect an answer to it, and I should not now trouble you this letter, had I not received one yesterday from our Brother Joseph Leonard of whom I made mention in my last, dated July 26th 1826.

He went to France for the purpose of getting a Deed perfected by the proprietor of the ground on which our house in the City of Cork is built. On his landing in that place he was violently attacked by fever, which confined him to bed for three weeks. He intended in a few days after the date of his letter to go to Paris, and to call upon you for the plans and for the books, which you had the goodness to say you had provided for us. As he is in France, I would wish he should avail himself of your kindness, and the present opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of those matters so very necessary for us. I should wish, even for the sake of his health, to have him remain there for two months.

If he should not have set out from Paris on his way to Ireland before you receive this letter, you will be pleased to communicate my wish to him upon this subject. If he should have left that City before this letter arrives there, you will have the goodness to inform me by post how many principal houses (Principales Maisons) at present in your Institute; and, if they exceed fifteen, how are the fifteen Directors selected or appointed for the General Chapters? If, for example, you should have forty houses in each of which seven Brothers at least reside, are the forty Directors to elect fifteen from among themselves to attend the Chapter, or are the fifteen appointed by the Superior General, or in what manner are they appointed? Have the Directors of the houses, which are not principal houses, any hand in sending the fifteen to the Chapter?...

Over the following years a flow of communication followed and Brothers went to Paris to get to know the system better.

“Live Jesus in our hearts forever!”

In January 1816 Bishop Murray of Dublin brought copies of the De La Salle Rules back from France to Ireland. It would appear that he felt that an adaptation of that Rule would be very suitable for Edmund Rice’s Brothers.

This prayer comes from St. John Baptist de La Salle.  It is found in the earliest versions of the Rule he composed for the Brothers, going back to the daily regulations decided on in the first assembly of the Brothers in 1696.  It appears in the first instance, not as a concluding prayer, but as the first prayer of the Brothers on arising in the morning.  In Chapter 27 of the primitive Rule, it is prescribed that a Brother should ring the rising bell at 4.30 a.m. and then say in a loud voice “Live Jesus in our hearts!” to which the Brothers would respond “Forever!”  The text goes on to say “This is the signal of the community.”

The invocation “Live Jesus in our hearts” was not, however, original to De La Salle.  It is a distillation of the essence of the Jesus-centered spirituality of the French spiritual writers of the 17th century. St. Francis de Sales (d. 1622) writes in his Introduction to the Devout Life “Live, Jesus!  Live, Jesus! Yes, Lord Jesus, live and reign in our hearts forever and ever.  Amen.”, and in Treatise on the Love of God he writes “Live, Jesus!  Jesus, I love!  Live, Jesus whom I love!”  The young John Baptist de La Salle was formed in this spiritual tradition at the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris from 1670 until 1672 when the death of his father forced his return to Reims.

17th century French spirituality is primarily focused on the man Jesus and the mystery of the Incarnation.  For the spiritual writers of the French school, the mystery of the Incarnation continues to be lived out in the life of the Christian.  The goal of Christian spirituality, then, is to identify with Jesus living within us, not only by imitating his way of life but, more deeply, by making one’s own the “heart” of Jesus in the various events of life. They found abundant evidence in the New Testament that led them to contemplate and foster communion with Jesus living within us:

  • “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me” (Galatians 2: 20)
  • “I pray that . . . Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3: 16-17).  
  • “Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14: 19-20).
  • “Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” (Philippians 2: 5-11).

1820 Approval of Pope Pius VII in the Brief Ad pastoralis dignitatis fastigium 

Pius VII According to Austin Dunphy in Origin (1822): On the 5th of September 1820, the Brief Ad Pastoralis dignitatis fastigium, approving of the Articles and of the Institute itself, was issued. This happy event was the source of much joy to the Brothers. However, for want of a safe conveyance, the Brief did not arrive in Ireland till the Spring of 1821. The Rev. Dr. Peter Kenny of the Society of Jesus arrived in Rome soon after it was issued, and as his stay there was not long, he was the Bearer of this consolatory documents.  It is proper to remark here that the Brothers owe a large debt of gratitude to Rev. John Rice, of the Order of Saint Augustine, and brother to Edmund Rice, for his very active and persevering exertions as Agent for the Institute at Rome.

Gathering in Thurles to accept the Brief
As soon as it was announced to the Brothers that the Brief had arrived, they were anxious to adopt measures for receiving it in due form. The Summer vacation was chosen as the most convenient time for the Brothers to assemble.  There were at this time in the Institute only twenty-two members, who had made vows according to the form already mentioned.  These alone were to meet on this occasion. Saturday the 25th of August was the day appointed. The Brothers accordingly met in Thurles on that day. There were 19 present: three of the Professed Brothers could not conveniently leave their houses.  These three however wrote to the meeting stating their intention and readiness to concur with the majority of the Brethren.

The Brief was read Article by Article by one of the Brothers; it was then (after a good deal of conversation, which principally turned on the points before mentioned) proposed that the plan of life and government specified therein be received and practised by the Brothers of the Institute. To this proposition there were only three dissenting voices. Votes of thanks were passed by the meeting to the Prelates who had patronised the Institute in their Dioceses.

The meeting was dissolved on Sunday evening the 26th of August, and the Brothers began next day to make arrangements for their departure to their respective houses. Nothing now remained to be done but to appoint a convenient place, and fix on a proper time for the Brothers to prepare themselves to make or renew their Vows according to the form authorized by the Brief.  After some communication with each other on these points, it was agreed upon that this house was the most convenient. The time was also appointed: the 12th of January 1822.

Gathering in Mount Sion, Waterford to Profess Vows and hold a Chapter

"In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, prostrate in profound adoration before thy infinite and adorable Majesty, I consecrate myself to thee in order to procure thy glory so far as lies in me, or thou art pleased to require of me.  To this end, I N.N. promise and vow to become now and to remain for ever a member of the Institute of the Religious Brothers founded under the protection of the Infant Jesus, and the invocation of his Virgin Mother, for the gratuitous instruction of poor boys, in order to teach in any school committed to their care, to which I may be sent, or perform any other duty in the same Institute which  may be assigned to me either by the body of this Association, or by the Superiors who shall be entrusted with its government. For this purpose I promise and vow Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, Perseverance in the Institute and gratuitous instruction according to the tenor of the Apostolical Brief, by which our Holy Father, Pope Pius the Seventh, was pleased to approve this Institute.  These vows of perseverance and obedience to the body and to the Superiors of the Institute, as well as those of Poverty, Chastity and gratuitous instruction, I promise to keep inviolably during my whole life. And in testimony of this sacred engagement, I have subscribed them with my name in the Domestic Chapel of our house, Mount Sion, Waterford, on the Feast of the Most Name of Jesus, the 20th day of January 1822.

A letter was sent to all the communities after the profession of vows and the Chapter meeting:

On the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus the twentieth day of January one thousand eight hundred and twenty two Brother Ignatius, in the world, Edmund Rice, was chosen Superior General by the majority of the suffrages of the General Chapter duly convened, and all forms legitimately observed according to the Brief of approbation of our Institute Ad Pastoralis dignitatis fastigium.
Br. John Patrick Corbett, President
Br. B. F. Manifold, Assistant
Br. James F. Thornton, Assistant and Secretary.


1822 Vows as Christian Brothers and Chapter

Icon Edmund Rice 15According to Garvan, Give to the Poor In Handfuls, 1996: Edmund knew well the needs of different places in Ireland, but to move a Brother from one place to another required much negotiation with bishops of different dioceses. Through a suggestion of the Archbishop of Dublin, Edmund wanted to change his original rule to enable his group to become a pontifical congregation with a Superior General at its head like the De La Salle Brothers in France. In this way the Superior General had control over the transfers of the Brothers without having to consult the bishops. The Brief Ad Pastoralis dignitatis fastigium, was issued by Pope Pius VII on 5 September 1820.  The document contained fourteen Rules or Constitutions. Though the new rule was approved by Pope Pius VII in 1820, the document did not reach Edmund until May 1821. Nineteen of the thirty Brothers on 20 January, 1822 formally accepted the new rule and elected Edmund as their first Superior General. The new congregation was known under the title of Brothers of the Christian Schools or Christian Brothers. However, a number of Brothers in Cork, to Edmund’s sorrow, would not attend the meeting to accept this document. Brother Austin Riordan wanted to continue according to the old Presentation Rule, under the local bishop, and some of the Brothers followed him. That congregation continues to this day as Presentation Brothers doing excellent work in Ireland, England, USA, Canada, the West Indies, Peru and Ghana. They claim Edmund Rice as their founder.

According to the History of the Institute I, Chapter VIII: Although the Brief was issued by the Holy Father on the 5th day of September, 1820, yet for want of safe transit it did not reach Ireland until the spring of 1821. Father Peter Kenny, the warm friend of the founder and the great ornament of the Society of Jesus in this country, was the bearer of this most important document.

On the evening of the day of their arrival at Mount Sion, they entered on an Eight Days’ Retreat, which was conducted by their dear friend Fr. Kenny, S.J., who had come from Dublin expressly for that object. Tradition speaks of that Retreat as a marvelous display of his piety and eloquence, and as in every way fully worthy of that great master of sacred oratory. The exercises terminated on Saturday evening, 19th of January. On the next morning, Sunday, 20th January, Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, Father Kenny said Mass for them in the domestic chapel, Mount Sion, and offered it for their special intention. The Brothers all communicated and fervently besought the Holy Ghost for light and assistance to carry out the great work for which they were all assembled.

A meeting of all Brothers was scheduled to be held in Dublin, but, for reasons, not explained, the venue was changed to Thurles, meeting in August 1821.  Of the 24 professed Brothers, 19 turned up.  The five absentees were both Leonards, J J O’Connor and M A Riordan, from Cork, and J A Mulcahy from Cappoquin.  Two documents were signed on 25 August.  One was approved by seventeen Brothers, the other by all nineteen. The Brothers decided that the Brief would be formally accepted and elections would take place in January 1822 in Waterford.  

Origin recalls: On the 5th of September 1820, the Brief Ad Pastoralis dignitatis fastigium, approving of the Articles and of the Institute itself, was issued. This happy event was the source of much joy to the Brothers. However, for want of a safe conveyance, the Brief did not arrive in Ireland till the Spring of 1821. The Rev. Doctor Peter Kenny of the Society of Jesus arrived in Rome soon after it was issued: and as his stay there was not long, he was the Bearer of this consolatory documents.  It is proper to remark here that the Brothers owe a large debt of gratitude to Rev. John Rice, of the Order of Saint Augustine, and brother to Edmund Rice, for his very active and persevering exertions as Agent for the Institute at Rome. He was Prior of the Augustinian Convent in Callan in the year 1817 when he was selected by his Brethren in this Country as the fittest person to proceed to Rome on certain important affairs relative to the Order.

When on their knees in the order just mentioned, the Veni Creator, with the collect Deus qui corda jidelium, was sung. Then in the presence of all the Brothers, they, one, after another, pronounced their vows in a distinct and audible manner in the following words.

"In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
"Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, prostrate in profound adoration before thy infinite and adorable Majesty, I consecrate myself to thee in order to procure thy glory so far as lies in me, or thou art pleased to require of me.  To this end, I N.N. promise and vow to become now and to remain for ever a member of the Institute of the Religious Brothers founded under the protection of the Infant Jesus, and the invocation of his Virgin Mother, for the gratuitous instruction of poor boys, in order to teach in any school committed to their care, to which I may be sent, or perform any other duty in the same Institute which  may be assigned to me either by the body of this Association, or by the Superiors who shall be entrusted with its government. For this purpose I promise and vow Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, Perseverance in the Institute and gratuitous instruction according to the tenor of the Apostolical Brief, by which our Holy Father, Pope Pius the Seventh, was pleased to approve this Institute.  These vows of perseverance and obedience to the body and to the Superiors of the Institute, as well as those of Poverty, Chastity and gratuitous instruction, I promise to keep inviolably during my whole life. And in testimony of this sacred engagement, I have subscribed them with my name in the Domestic Chapel of our house, Mount Sion, Waterford, on the Feast of the Most Name of Jesus, the 20th day of January 1822.
Brother N.N., called in the world N.N."

On that same day the Brothers began the first General Chapter in the life of the new Congregation. After making some initial arrangements they proceeded to elect a Superior General.

Origin recalls: After some time the house bell was rung to announce that the Election had taken place. The Brothers all assembled at the Chapel door, which was opened by the Doorkeeper of the Chapter. The Secretary then coming forward to the Chapel door, addressed the Brothers in the following words: "Dearly beloved Brethren, we have now a Superior General, Brother Ignatius Rice." He then read the Decree of Election, to which the Brothers answered Deo Gratias.

On the twenty first day of January 1822, Brother Patrick Ellis and Brother Austin Dunphy were chosen Assistants to the Superior General by the majority of the suffrages of the General Chapter duly convened and all forms legitimately observed according to the Brief of approbation of our Institute, Ad Pastoralis dignitatis fastigium.

The Chapter then passed the following Decree. "That four Brothers be chosen or elected from the Chapter, who are to act as Commissioners with the Superior General and his two Assistants in framing a code of Rules and plan of discipline for the Institute."

In consequence of the above Decree a ballot took place to elect the four Commissioners. After observing all due forms, it was found that the following Brothers were elected by a majority of suffrages; Brother Francis Manifold, Brother Patrick Corbett, Brother Joseph Mulcahy, and Brother Aloysius Kelly. The Chapter, having now invested the seven Commissioners with power to draw up Rules for the Institute, had nothing more to deliberate on.

On Saturday evening January 26th at eight o'clock, the labours of the Chapter being now terminated, the Brothers proceeded to the Chapel, where they recited the Te Deum after which they returned to the Community room where the Superior General dissolved the Chapter: saying, "I dissolve this Chapter in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."  To which they all answered "Amen.”

In 1832 the Brothers adopted a new Rule. It contained the following daily programme:

TIME     EXERCISE
05.00    Rise
05.15     Meditation
06.00    Angelus, several Paters, Aves and Glorias.
              Spiritual lecture from Rodriguez or other writer.
07.00    Mass
08.00    Breakfast
              Prepare for school
09.00    School
12.00    Angelus, Catechism etc.
15.00    School closes
15.00    Dinner
              Recreation [Wednesday and Saturday walk into country allowed]
17.00    A Kempis {Imitation of Christ}, spiritual reading till 17.30
17.30    Public lecture; Scripture or Lives of the Saints
17.45    Visit to the Blessed Sacrament
18.00    Angelus, several Paters, Aves and Glorias; study of approved Catechetical work.
18.60    Literary study.
19.30    Rosary (six decades)
20.00    Supper
21.00    Night Prayer: examination of conscience for ten minutes, Litany of the BVM, five decades of the Rosary, Salve Regina, De Profundis [Ps. 61].  
              Prepare next morning’s meditation.  
22.00    Bed.    

1826 Report on Edmund's System of Education

A government official's Report from 1826 gives us some sense of the education system Edmund was implementing:

WATERFORD SCHOOLS [James Glassford (d.1845), Commissioner for Irish Education 1824-1826.]

OCTOBER 14th. 1826, Waterford.
Same day:  Visited the large Roman Catholic School of Mr. Rice, conducted by him and twelve others of a Brotherhood for education – a very extensive establishment, and apparently well managed, with good arrangement and discipline.  Mr. Rice was from home, the younger brethren present were communicative and civil.  Four specious rooms adjoining each other; with attached dwelling-houses for the brethren.  Found in the school this morning 592 boys, all Roman Catholics.

Had reason to believe that the visit was not expected.  The Lancastrian plan followed [a system of religious education devised by the Quaker educationalist Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838)]; monitorial system in some points improved, or at least carried to greater minuteness; among others, kept a daily register of the lessons, and the progress and proficiency of every boy under each head of instruction.  But, quaere. Whether the detail is not often carried beyond useful limit? And, quaere, whether the monitorial system, generally, does not sacrifice the monitor, in order to obtain a more complete mechanism?

The Brothers maintain, as far as could be observed, a full authority, without harshness of manner – no appearance of birchen rule, like the ancient English academies.  These schools were established in 1803, and others on the same plan have been founded – one in Dungarvan, one in Innistymon in Clare, one in Limerick, and one in Thurles.  Mr. Rice has dedicated his whole fortune and means to this object, and the young men who join the Brotherhood contribute their property in like manner.  It is the same in the other places, Dublin and Limerick excepted, where there is a general and fixed sum supplied by contributions, and held in common.  The schools in Waterford have been assisted by some liberal donations, both from the Roman Catholic superior clergy, and from Protestant gentlemen of the county.  These schools have always been taught gratuitously; great proficiency attained in arithmetic and in its higher as well as common branches.

The reading books are all Roman Catholic – Gahan’s Summary, Reeve’s History of the Bible, Chaloner’s Think-well on it, Instruction for the First Communion, Butlers General Catechism, Complete System of Catholic Education (England’s), and Fleury’s Historical Catechism.

There is a lending library in use for the school; the books purchased chiefly in Dublin, from Nolan; Hay’s Devout Christian, Appleton’s Sermons, Dodwell’s reflections, Model of Young Men, Virtuous scholar, and many others of similar description.  Did not observe any didactic, historical, or literary works of a general character.

This school, as may be supposed, is in great request among the Roman Catholic people.  Fifty boys are said sometimes waiting on Monday mornings, the day of admission.  None are admitted beyond the number that can be accommodated with seats, and room at the class table.  The buildings cost between £2,000 and £3,000.  The citizens contribute £100 annually for clothing the poorest boys.  A shirt, coat and pair of trousers to these yearly.  About 200 receive this allowance, but no boy, however, needy, receives clothing till he has been one year at the school.

According to Daniel Kelleher, James Dominic Burke, (p. 15):

The type of education offered, even at an early state, is best illustrated by reading the subject list of the new schools of the Christian Brothers at Hanover Street, Dublin, in 1841 when James Burke was about to begin his formal education in Limerick. (As the system was centralised, each school would have more or less the same curriculum). The Catholic Directory tells us that the Christian Brothers were offering “Reading, Writing, English, Grammar, Composition, Arithmetic, Book-keeping, Geography, Globes, History, Mathematics, Drawing and Natural Philosophy”… The Brothers 1841 Chapter had appointed a special committee to work out a standard system… whose report was published in 1845 in the form of A Manual of School Government.

Between 1826 and 1854 the Christian Brothers were in regular contact with the De La Salle Brothers (in France) and there was a steady flow of educational advice, textbooks and plans from Paris. Fr. John Rice, passing through Paris in July 1825, obtained for his brother Edmund some of the De La Salle textbooks and most important of all, a copy of their basic book on educational theory and practice, Conduite des écoles chrétiennes. The impact of this book on the thinking of the Christian Brothers was considerable. We know that Br. Austin Dunphy wrote to the De La Salle Superior General telling him “I am convinced, from reading your Conduite that your school system far excels that of any adopted in this country”.

Descriptions of Edmund Rice

According to Br. John Norris History of the Institute Vol. 1, Chapter XLVI, 1844: In 1835 I was a young school-boy, about twelve years of age, attending the Brothers Schools in Carrick. Br. Ignatius Rice, then Superior-General of the Institute, paid a visit to the schools. He was surrounded by the Brothers like affectionate children around their father. He looked to me as a tall - about six feet in height - and rather stout gentleman, with a benevolent countenance, and dressed in the style of the Brothers of that time - body-coat, with pockets outside covered with lapels, a knee-breeches, and leggings. He wore a long silver chain with seals attached hanging from the trousers fob. Over these garment was worn a blue cloth cloak without cape, such as was used by the clergy and secular gentlemen of that time.’

According to Br Joseph Hearne, History of the Institute, Vol. 1, p259: Edmund Rice brought to the Institute of Christian Brothers “a comprehensive grasp of mind, with a powerful intellect, combined with an extensive knowledge of the world, of men, and of business and long experience, together with an unbounded goodness of heart, which inclined him to lend his effectual and powerful assistance to all, without distinction, who required his aid, and to spare no sacrificing of himself to help them, as far as he was able, to their spiritual or temporal necessities”.

According to John McGillicuddy, 1912, Memories 121: Brother Rice was the grandest religious man that one would wish to see.  He was pious, holy, and charitable and he showed all this in the manner he devoted himself to help the poor and instruct the ignorant… I got religious instructions from him and he was well able to give them until he grew too old.  Old people used to go to Mount Sion to get religious instructions from Brother Rice.  The people at the time of Brother Rice talked of him as a saint as he devoted himself entirely to doing good, and to educating the poor who had no one else in Brother Rice’s time to look after them. 

According to Mrs Carey, Memories 23: Br Rice and my grandfather were engaged at the same business.I often heard the latter say that they went to fairs and markets together when both were comparatively young men.  My grandfather said that Mr Rice was a very good young man, and that then he was very fond of prayer. When they went along the road, Br Rice would take out his beads and they would say the rosary together.  There was an old chapel off Barrack Street, where Mount Sion new stands, and both of them used to hear Mass there.                                       


Edmund’s practical love for poor people he met - Carlo Bianconi, Poll Carthy and others

Icon Edmund Rice 14According to Garvan, Give to the Poor In Handfuls, 1996: Edmund had great sympathy for prisoners in jail and showed it in a practical manner. He was well known to the jailers and had free access to the prisons, where he never went empty-handed. He frequently brought sums of money donated by the bishop. As a Government report on prisons made clear, “the young delinquent is soon converted into a hardened criminal.” It was this fact in particular that moved Edmund to visit the prisons regularly with his Brothers to give some kind of religious instruction and solace. Special attention was given to those awaiting execution to try to reconcile them to their fate and prepare them to face death. Many of these had become hardened and callous during their imprisonment and were unresponsive to the chaplain, but were won over by Edmund. On execution mornings he was allowed, as a special privilege, to meet the condemned man for the last time and accompany him to the scaffold. The Brothers at Mount Sion continued this important though distressing ministry when Edmund left Waterford to reside in Dublin.

Edmund personally helped many people including Poll Carthy, who had become an inveterate drunkard and could not be induced to give up drinking. Then Edmund Rice took an interest in her, and his charisma worked, just as it had worked over the years with prisoners awaiting execution, undisciplined youths and others. Reacting to his approach, Poll agreed to go to the Presentation Sisters for instruction. She also agreed to take the pledge. Having been provided with decent clothes by Edmund, she undertook the 24Okm journey on foot to Cork to take the pledge before Father Mathew. Her penitential pilgrimage bore fruit, for her life was permanently transformed.

Bianconi portrait

Carlo Bianconi was born in Italy in 1786 and arrived in Ireland in 1802, apprenticed to Andrea Faroni, an Italian engraver and vendor of religious prints and devotional objects.They led an itinerant life, passing from place to place selling their wares. When Carlo went out on his own, he travelled through the south of Ireland with his large box of prints, walking 20 to 30 miles each day. Then one day this young Italian man turned up in Waterford by barge from Carrick-on-Suir. Drenched by rain, he was selling pictures from his pack, his English vocabulary consisting almost entirely of the word “Buy!”, when he met Edmund, who befriended, instructed and encouraged him, evidently to excellent results. By 1815 he had opened a shop in Clonmel selling religious goods.

Always industrious and hardworking, he used his savings to introduce a fleet of horse-drawn cars and "jingles" for passenger transport, running between the principal towns of the south of Ireland. Regarded as the founder of public transportation in Ireland, he built on the system of mail coaches and roads that were built around Ireland before 1790 by the Scottish entrepreneur, John Anderson of Fermoy. By 1845 his two-, three- and four-horse cars were running daily across the country, always crowded with passengers. These were known as 'Bianconi coaches' and the first service, Clonmel to Cahir, took five to eight hours by boat but only two hours by Bianconi’s carriage. Travel on a ‘Bian’ cost one penny farthing a mile. There were also a series of inns, the Bianconi Inns, some of which still exist; in Piltown, County Kilkenny and Killorglin, County Kerry. This of course was long before the railways were established. He went on to accumulate much wealth and become Mayor of Clonmel in 1842. He gave Edmund a free pass on his coaches anywhere in Ireland and each year he gave Edmund £50 and supplied twenty suits for poor boys. Bianconi died on 22 September 1875 at Boherlahan, County Tipperary, and is buried in the church there.

Edmund continued his unremitting work in legal matters for the poor who were so easily badly done by. He had decent clothes made for the poor boys who attended his schools and in different styles and cloth so that they would not be embarrassed. Hungry children could get food at school and their parents were helped in the evenings with classes and material to read. Truly Edmund wrote in a rare moment of self-disclosure: “I have for many years past laboured for the advancement of Education among the poorer classes and other works of Charity to which I have chiefly devoted my life.” A Government publication on the Education of the Poor in Ireland in 1825 stated that Brother Rice had 30 Christian Brothers working in 12 different towns and cities, and that these 50 Brothers were educating, free of charge, 5,500 boys. It is not known how many of these boys were being fed and clothed as well.

Edmund was a deeply kind and compassionate man as the humble and unknown people testified of him, like John Flynn of Waterford: “I went to school to Brother Rice, and he was a grand man who was pious, holy and charitable. He was very affectionate and kind to children. Rich and poor were equally dear to him. When leaving school the boys shook hands with him, and next morning if they had been beaten by their parents, they would show him the place to make it well.” In Dublin, Anne McDonnell had much the same to say when she recalled: “My eldest son was under the instruction of Brother Rice. He was stopping from school one time and I brought him to Brother Rice and asked him to punish the lad. Brother Rice said that it was against the rules of the school for him to punish the boy and that I should do the punishing myself. “Wait until I catch him home and won’t I punish him!” said I. Brother Rice laughed heartily at my boasting and he took the boy from me. He told me not to be hard on him. Brother Rice was kindness itself to the boys and he was one of the mildest of men. He was mild in manner and appearance. The people loved him and thought him a saint.”

It was not only the poor who spoke well of Edmund. Many people, both Catholic and Protestant, expressed their high regard for Edmund and his work. Henry Keane was a solicitor in Waterford who did much of Edmund’s legal work and knew him closely and personally. He remarked of Edmund: “No man was ever surer of himself than Edmund Rice.” This sureness came from Edmund’s belief in himself, his experience of Christ appealing to him in the poor, and his utter conviction that what he was doing was God’s work: he was improving the lot of the poor, enabling them to live better lives with hope for their future. This, in turn, enabled them to see what their world could be, when seen with the eyes of Christ.

In Limerick a terrible cholera epidemic broke out and the Brothers used the school to care for the afflicted. Not a single Brother, as Edmund predicted, died from this epidemic, even though they were handling and caring for those struck down by the disease. A later Superior General, Brother Louis Hoare, was seen carrying out corpses on his back. In a letter at this time Edmund wrote of the situation: “Our Limerick Brothers are doing more than our good ones here (in Dublin) have done. Every day they are attending the poor cholera patients in the hospitals. They give a frightful account of the ravages it is making there. Sixteen sent dead out of the school - which has been turned into a hospital - one morning  I am not one bit in dread that a Priest, Nun or Monk will sink under its direful hand.”

According to Houlihan, Overcoming Evil With Good, 1997: Two places that Edmund knew he would find people who needed help were the jails and the primitive hospitals in lreland’s cities and towns. He liked to visit these institutions because he knew he would meet persons there who were desperate and who had no one to whom they could tum for help. He was a regular visitor to prisoners especially on Sundays and holidays. The prisons were awful places, cold, damp, filthy—where only a bare minimum of food was offered to the prisoners. Edmund made visits to the prisoners to give them comfort, to provide them with some food, and to listen to the reasons for which they were jailed and perhaps to give them religious instructions. He would question each prisoner about his family and would agree to see if he could assist the wife or children in some way. When a prisoner was to be hanged Edmund and the Brothers would talk to the person about to be executed, pray with him and accompany him to the gallows. The first book about Edmund Rice by John Shelly of Callan was printed in 1863. He describes Mr. Rice, referring to the years before he founded his brotherhood in these words: "Besides being a business man, Edmond [sic] Rice was a social worker”. Some of the inmates in the prisons in Waterford were there for non-payment of rent or other debts. Edmund visited such prisoners and often paid their debts if he could, so that they could be released and return to their families. He would sometimes give money to the jailer to provide food for the prisoners. He often accompanied those to be executed to the scaffold, all the while doing his best to console them by his words and prayers. This ministry to those in prison did not stop when Edmund built Mount Sion or after he founded his Institute. Mr. Rice’s account books for 1807 and 1808 carried entries for amounts given for charity to the various prisons in Waterford (city or county) and donations given directly to prisoners. One of the entries is dated December 25, 1807 which indicates he gave a half-crown to each of forty-two prisoners. Edmund's example was followed by the Brothers in these early years and they are mentioned in various newspaper articles on such occasions. “At Twelve o’clock the mournful procession left inner court of the gaol [jail]...Thomas F...was attended by the Rev. Walter Cantwell, and the other prisoner by the Rev. Edward Power. In addition to these Rev. Gentlemen, the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Mount Sion, ever to be found where they can administer comfort and alleviation under such trying circumstances, were assiduous in their exertions from the time the men left the dock after conviction.” (Positio)

The hospitals in the cities such as those in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Limerick were meant for the wealthier clientele of doctors and for those who could afford to pay for services rendered. There were wards for the poor attached to most such institutions and infirmaries that catered to the sick poor. For example there was a hospital on Jervis Street in Dublin that Edmund and the brothers frequently visited. In the Positio for Mary Aikenhead the author records a meeting of one of her Nuns and Edmund Rice. “The sisters were in the habit of visiting the female wards of Jervis Street Hospital, and on Sundays they generally met the Christian Brothers who were attending the male wards. Sister Mary Xavier decided to enlist the help of the brothers [to advise the Sisters on school management], and she appealed to Brother Rice in person. At first he found it hard to believe that she could be serious but once she had convinced him that this was a genuine cry for help, he promised to send her Brother Duggan.” It should be noted that there was a close bond between Mary Aikenhead’s Sisters of Charity and Edmund Rice's Brothers, especially in Dublin because both groups were dedicated to the service of the poor. The help solicited by Sister Xavier was in connection with the sisters’ first school in Dublin at a location close to the Brothers’ school on North Richmond Street. More about this later. The Sisters of Mary Aikenhead (Irish Sisters of Charity) and those of Catherine McAuley (Sisters of Mercy) were to be seen in every part of Dublin wherever there was even one poverty-stricken soul who needed a helping hand. This is why the ‘new’ type of Sisters came to be affectionately called “the walking nuns” by city people. Although Edmund Rice and his brothers were first and foremost teachers, they also visited the sick and prisoners as a part of their ministry. They worked seven days a week and were tireless in their ministrations of charity to the poor.

There were times when the schools were closed and handed over to the civic authorities because of the dreaded typhoid fever or cholera epidemics which periodically swept through Ireland. In 1816 the Brothers were just completing the building of the famous North Monastery in Cork when they were asked to allow the building to be used for those dying of typhoid fever. A Catholic doctor donated beds and installed windows throughout the building and for the next year their new school became a temporary hospital. Edmund Rice approved of this move because he was always ready to help where the need was the greatest. The fever raged for a full year and more and it was 1818 before the school was again open to the admission of boys.

Edmund Rice directed the brothers to help as far as possible and to make their premises available if necessary whenever these plagues occurred. In Thurles, Dungarvan and Limerick, the brothers gave over the schools to become emergency wards and even their houses were used for patients and medical offices. If school work was continued, it had to be done in temporary accommodations elsewhere. The Brothers had also to find temporary lodgings for themselves. The Brothers found time to assist the doctors and nurses in attending to the victims. Brother Virgilius Jones who had lived with some of the Limerick Brothers recorded the following: “From the details which have come down to us of the labours of the brothers during the epidemic in Limerick, it is clear that no pen could do justice to their charity and patient endurance, in all their ministrations. All day long they were to be seen at the bedside of the sufferers attending to every call, to soothe every pang — using every appliance possible to keep down the burning fever or to ease their tortured limbs. The night also found the Brothers at their post, the silence of which was only broken by the heart-rending cries of the sufferers, calling aloud for the Brothers by their names, and whose very presence at the bed- side seemed to have a soothing effect." (Normoyle) He goes on to describe the conditions of the locations, the entrance way crowded with coffins awaiting burial and with coffins waiting for corpses. The six month siege of cholera in Limerick found 525 patients being cared for and out this number there were 225 deaths. Edmund proudly praised the work of the Brothers in a letter he wrote to Mother Austin McGrath in Dungarvan, June 12, 1832: “Our Limerick Brothers are attending the poor cholera patients in the Hospitals. They give a frightful account of the ravages it is making there.... Numerous conversions amongst the Sick, in so much as one of our Brothers in a letter we received yesterday calls the Cholera a Blessing instead of a scourge."


1829 Congregation under threat of extinction

According to Garvan, Give to the Poor In Handfuls, 1996: A great threat to the very existence of the new congregation was the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. This granted freedom of religion to Catholics but in a strange twist it threatened the existence of religious orders. It seemed that the Christian Brothers were about to be suppressed despite the assurances of Daniel O’Connell. Edmund was told by the Duke of Wellington that the Christian Brothers existed contrary to the law. In a downcast state Edmund tendered his resignation to a meeting of the Brothers, but they would not accept it and asked him to continue on, which he did. The law of suppression was not enforced and the Brothers survived even though no novices entered in I829. Edmund was not foreign to being depressed for he wrote to a friend: “… tell them that for the last (few) days I was a good deal occupied, and what was worse that my spirits were for the most part as low as ditch water.” However, he also believed in casting “all your cares into the arms of divine Providence” and that is what he himself was doing during these taxing times for his young congregation.

The fact that some Brothers were not able to get sufficient food to sustain them, because of their poverty, forced Edmund to consider the entry of his schools into the National Board system. In this system they would receive financial aid but they were not permitted to have religious emblems obvious except during the religion period. The saying of prayers was also greatly restricted. After a period of trial Edmund and his Brothers could not come to peace about their involvement with the National Board and withdrew, confident that the people would come to their aid. This is precisely what the people did, even though at times the Brothers’ faith that they would survive was stretched to the limit. These Brothers had been spiritually well prepared by Edmund. He gave them as their motto a scripture text from the Book of Job which had such deep meaning for him in his life: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord forever.” Job 1:21.

1838 Edmund's Resignation Letter

Edmund was aware that he was getting on in years and that his health was failing somewhat. In 1838 he wrote to the Brothers announcing his plan to resign as Superior General and convoking a General Chapter:

Mount Sion, Waterford. May 21st, 1838.

My Very Dear Br. Director,

Being in a very delicate state of health, and quite unable to administer the affairs of the Institute. I deem it expedient to convoke a General Chapter of our Society in July next, for the purpose of electing a Superior in my place, and dis¬cussing such matters as may be deemed expedient for the good of the Society. You will therefore he pleased to assemble the Vocals of your House, to give them the opportunity of making their suffrages in favour of eight Ancient Brothers as Deputies to said Chapter. There being but eight Principal Houses in the Insti¬tute - viz., Waterford, Cork. Limerick, Hanover Street, Mill Street. Thurles, Carrick, and Dungarvan. No election takes place with regard to Directors. Underneath is the list of the names of the ancient Brothers who are eligible to be elected as Deputies. You will be pleased to return your suffrages directed to me at Waterford, without delay.

Begging of God to direct you,
I remain, my very dear Br. Director,
    Your affectionate Brother.
Edmund I. Rice

The Chapter began in July of that year, and unlike nine years previously, Edmund was not persuaded to continue in the role. He had led the brothers for 36 years. He now retired to Mount Sion where he would spend his last years. In a contentious election process, after five ballots Paul Riordan, one of his most vocal critics, was chosen to succeed him. 

1841 Chapter and Internal Dissention


Life-of-DLSAccording to Garvan: Perhaps an even more insidious threat came to Edmund personally through the dissidence of some Brothers who tried to undermine his work and his vision. Some even claimed St. John Baptist de la Salle as their founder, and not Edmund Rice. Edmund’s successor as Superior General had his portrait done holding a copy of the life of de la Salle which he himself had written. This painting can still be seen in the Christian Brothers’ Generalate in Rome. This was an extremely painful period for Edmund as he tried to get his Congregation on a sure footing which would enable it to carry on for future generations what he had founded it for.

The demands made on Edmund, now an elderly man, were severe, and he wrote: “I had a letter from Br. Francis on which I am obliged to set off for Dublin this evening. It’s well if this work does not kill me.” 

Arguments about pay schools continued among the Brothers. Edmund presented himself at the Brothers Chapter in 1841, believing himself to be an ex officio member though he no longer held any office. The majority of the capitulants saw things differently and refused him entry. They had received a letter with canonical advice, recommending that Edmund not be admitted, from Fr. Kenny, which many believed later to be a forgery. Not alone the rejection by some, but also the misguided efforts of some of his supporters, left Edmund isolated in his old age.

Brother Austin Dunphy kept a private diary. In it he recorded the proceedings of the Chapter held in Dublin in 1841.    

Tuesday, July 13th 1841 
On this day the Chapter met.  Br Ignatius Rice appeared in the Chapter Room.  A question was raised as to whether he could be present – not being elected as a Deputy.  A discussion ensued and division took place.  It appeared there were eleven votes to exclude him and eight to admit him.  The same majority decided against applying to Dr O’Brien (Dr. Dominic O’Brien, Vicar General of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore) for his opinion as to whether Br Ignatius Rice had a right to sit in Chapter as Founder of the Institute. 

Expansion of the System

According to Houlihan: In 1824 a Royal Commission was set up to look into the condition of the primary schools for the poor in Ireland and England at the request of the Irish Bishops. Besides visiting many of the brothers’ schools in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, the Commissioners questioned Brother Bernard Dunphy in depth, concerning the brothers’ schools. As a result of the final Report made by the Commission in 1825, the Christian Brothers became better known throughout Ireland and England.

When the Report was made public, English priests wanted the Brothers to open schools in their country so Edmund Rice went to England (Preston) in 1825 to look into the matter. Invitations for the brothers to open schools came from as far away as the United States, from Newfoundland and from England. Within a short time the brothers would have six schools in England as well as a Novitiate to accept trainees for the Congregation. Such good news buoyed up the drooping spirits of Edmund Rice and the brothers who were struggling to meet the financial and other challenges they were facing at that time. They began to realize many of the problems were nothing more than “growing pains."

Yet one of the personal sorrows of the Founder just then, was the experience of seeing some of his first companions leaving the congregation. Some of these men had been with him in New Street in 1802 and helped him found Mount Sion. Some of them had pioneered in Carrick-on-Suir, in Dungarvan and in Dublin. Of the first nine men who joined Edmund’s community between 1802 and 1808 only three persevered, but to offset that experience, there were the stalwarts who stayed with him — Austin Dunphy, Peter Ellis, Francis Grace and Joseph Murphy, to name a few. So there were joys and sorrows all through his life and Edmund being a prayerful man also trusted in a provident God.  

With Edmund as Superior General the brothers had embarked upon a new kind of religious life that was unfamiliar territory even to friendly bishops and pastors. After all, the brothers were laymen and the clergy in Ireland were not familiar with an independent group of unordained religious men. While Archbishops Troy and Murray of Dublin were convinced that this was the best way to proceed, there were others in the episcopacy who were strongly opposed to a papal congregation of ‘laics' within their dioceses. This was a totally new concept in the Irish Church and other Bishops also had trouble accepting it. Brother Rice would have many unpleasant dealings with Bishops who felt this way. His becoming the first elected Superior General under the terms of the Brief issued by Pope Pius VII would also be a source of division within the congregation. On the other hand, he now had more freedom to place brothers in various dioceses and he had a better grasp of expanding his school system both within and outside of Ireland.

Priests and bishops who heard of Edmund's successful schools began to invite him to establish his system in their territory. After several previous petitions, a committee of Catholics of Preston, England finally obtained the promise of brothers for their school. Edmund did not rush into acceptance of the invitation but characteristically hammered out all the details required before he would sign the contract. In October, 1825, Brothers Patrick Joseph Murphy and Aloysius Kelly became the first Christian Brothers to teach in an English school. Others would take up work in Manchester, London or Liverpool within the next few years. English candidates for the brotherhood were trained in Ireland until 1840 when an English Novitiate was opened in Preston. Six schools were established in England during Edmund's administration.

The next invitation to the Founder for brothers came from Roman authorities who were anxious to have Catholic teachers in Gibraltar to offset the work of Methodists who were proselytizing the children of Catholics living on this peninsula. The request was made through Archbishop Murray of Dublin who encouraged Edmund to accept this request from the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1835 two brothers left for the garrison town which was governed by the British but inhabited largely by Spanish speaking citizens. Brothers Patrick O'Flaherty and Thomas Anthony kept in close touch with the Founder and sent back to Ireland many letters describing their experience in Gibraltar.

Challenges and difficulties were not limited to the expansion of the Institute outside of Ireland. Archbishop Murray was anxious to have a Christian Brothers’ school in his Cathedral parish. The prelate was already trying to build and pay for a Cathedral church and was not in a position to take on the financing of a school. Edmund had discussed with the Archbishop of Dublin the possibility of a model school for the training of novices and teachers as well as a central house for the General Council. There was still an anti-Catholic sentiment among the well-to-do Protestants of Dublin, so Bryan Bolger, a layman and an architect, was asked to scout around for land that would be suitable for the school?“ The search was on for a few years and Edmund was rather worried that this project would never get off the ground. He wrote a Christmas letter to his friend Brother Patrick Corbett in Carrick-on-Suir: "We are still disappointed in getting the ground to build a house and school in Dr. Murray's parish and all the brothers have been written to, to offer prayers to Almighty God, and in a particular manner during the Christmas retreat to procure a suitable place for the purpose.” It was not until 1828 that Bolger found a property that would be perfect for Edmund’s plans. Details of the foundation are recorded stating: “On March 10th, 1828, Samuel Scott, Esq. gave lease to Bryan Bolger Esq., of a plot of ground adjoining the North Circular Road.” Edmund Rice fenced in the plot which was simply an open field. Bryan Bolger was asked to draw up plans for the necessary buildings: residence, novitiate and school. For the time being, Edmund, his assistants and the novices moved into the Hanover Street facilities where the brothers had lived since 1812. This temporary arrangement would last for three years until the new buildings on North Richmond Street were ready for occupancy in 1831.

Daniel O’Connell took a personal interest in the school being planned by Edmund Rice and was determined to see a portion of the Catholic Association's Education fund going towards what he considered to be a noble undertaking. The Association during these years brought the Catholics of Ireland together into a body pledged to make Ireland a nation. “O’Connell indeed was the life and soul, the creator and sustainer of the whole movement. Without his enthusiasm, it would never have existed; without his guiding hand, it would have run into illegal courses, and have lost it influence.”(Dunlop)

With Daniel O'Connell on his side, Edmund Rice looked forward to both moral and financial support for the new school. The Catholic Association gave £1,500 of the £5,000 needed to erect the house and school. Daniel O'Connell gave the dedicatory speech when the cornerstone was laid on June 9th, 1828. 100,000 people were in attendance at the ceremony. In his speech he referred to Edmund Rice as "my dear old friend, the Patriarch of the Monks of the West” and he thanked him and his disciples on the part of Ireland for the noble work they were accomplishing. Although Edmund had named the new institution “The Model School,” later to be known as '"The O’Connell Schools.” It would be three years before the first pupils could be received and before the brothers could move into their Generalate and Novitiate and it would be more years again before it was financially stable.

North Richmond StPerhaps no single institution established during Edmund Rice’s administration was the source of more concern and worry to the Founder and his brothers. The school itself was a great success educationally almost from the beginning but obtaining the funds to support it and the novitiate as well as the community of brothers was a major challenge to Edmund during his last years. He was 66 years old when the cornerstone was laid and 69 when the school was open for business.

In 1838 he wrote his last will in his small room on the second floor of the residence he had built. He turned over all of his assets (and his bills as well) to his trustees, Brothers Austin Dunphy, Francis Thornton and Joseph Murphy. He made them promise that they would pay the debts from whatever interest and profit accrued to his investments.

It would be years before the O'Connell school would be financially stable and the condition would cause much tension within Edmund’s congregation. He, experienced business man that he was, could not solve the problems associated with this project while he was in office and it would be well into his successor’s term that the North Richmond Street property was out of danger.

The worries took their toll on his aging body. Even after his resignation as Superior General in 1838, the worries followed him into his retirement in Waterford. For a while it looked like the school would go into receivership but fortunately that did not happen.  

Edmund’s last days

The Brothers gathered for a Chapter in 1838.

According to Normoyle, A Tree Is Planted, XXXI: After the preparatory retreat the Founder presided at the first day’s session, 24 July, at which standing orders were decided and the scrutators elected, Brothers Patrick Ellis, Austin Grace and Aloysius Kelly. Then Edmund Rice stood up and in a few words gave the reasons motivating his decision to retire as Superior General—advancing years and increasing bodily infirmity. He then formally tendered his resignation. A silence pervaded the class-room in which the capitulants were assembled. All were obviously affected by a sense of sorrow and finality. He who had guided the Congregation through the turbulent waters of its founda-tion and early development had now handed over to the Chapter the duty of choosing his successor.

Edmund retired to Mount Sion in 1838 where he was quite content to withdraw from the Institutes business activities that had occupied him for so many years. At first he made short visits to the brothers at Dungarvan or Carrick-on-Suir and even as far away as Limerick and Ennistymon. As late as 1840 he went alone from Waterford to Dublin on business he had with the Commissioners of Charitable Bequests. He cannot have been too feeble if he were able to make that 30 hour difficult journey by himself. Br. David Fitzpatrick says that “all the evidence we have goes to show that he was able to go on journeys up to the time he was eighty years of age.” He loved the company of his brothers — that is why he made these tiring trips to their communities. It finally became necessary for him to give up these visits because of his age and poor health. For the last few years of his life, he had to be satisfied with letters from the brothers and other friends or the occasional visits when brothers came to Mount Sion for retreats or for business with the General Council.

Edmund became quite ill in December of 1841. It looked like his death was imminent. The Superior General wrote to all the communities on December 31, 1841 to inform them of his condition and to ask for prayers. “He has no pain or uneasiness but great weakness which confines him to his bed and, it is feared will end in his death.” This turned out to be a "false alarm” since Edmund recovered and would live for another two years.

Less than a month later, Edmund was again involved in business matters and he was in touch with his friends. He received a letter from Brother Ignatius Kelly on January 24, 1842 which was an answer to one Edmund had written him a few days previously. The letter contained information that would bring the Founder some good news. "I am happy to tell you that... under Mr. Bolger’s will... Dr. Murray has signed the paper which yourself and Br. B. Dunphy signed last year appropriating the residue for the purposes of the Institute. This is of great importance to us as it strengthens our hands against the Commissioners of Charitable Donations. Of course you don’t trouble your head about any of these temporal affairs now, but I know you like a bit of good news.” This is a valuable letter because it shows that Edmund Rice was able to write letters and attend to substantive business matters in 1842. By June of this year, Edmund’s mental powers rapidly deteriorated but even then he had his moments when he was quite lucid.

The novices and young brothers who were at Mount Sion were frequent visitors to Edmund’s room during the last years of his life. When he was unable to walk, they pushed his wheelchair for him as they walked through the garden on the property. Years later many of these brothers wrote their memories of their early years in the Institute and mentioned the talks they had with the Founder and described their experiences with him. Brother Stephen Carroll, a young man whom Edmund had invited to become a member of his brotherhood in 1835, wrote a lengthy memoir of the Founder fifty years later in which he included his reminiscences of his association with Edmund Rice at the North Richmond Street Novitiate and then at Mount Sion. He writes: "I was not long in the Novitiate when I got charge of the Superior’s room. I was, immediately after 5 a.m., to light his candle for I must say he was remarkable for his early rising and strict attention to his religious duties. He always had his meals with the community and always fared no better than others. After breakfast each morning, he had hot water left him by me, to whom he always spoke with much kindness. And when the morning duty was past, his room was made up and this finished matters this way for the day.”

Three years later, Brother Stephen was again in community with the Founder, this time at Mount Sion in the first years of Edmund's retirement. On several occasions, Edmund said to him: “Pray, Brother Stephen, that God’s will may be fulfilled in me." This statement made a profound impression on the young brother that in spite of his advanced age, the Founder was concerned about his resignation to God’s will.

For the first few years of his retirement, Edmund Rice, although feeble, managed to visit the class rooms of Mount Sion, since he loved to be with the children in the lower grades. He liked to see their work, and the brothers made it a practice to invite him into the various rooms whenever he came into the school building. “On one of these visits to the school...I got him a chair, brought some of the copies the boys were writing for his inspection — he generally passed a few words of encouragement — he was always thankful for any little service we could do for him.” (Normoyle) When the weather was good the young brothers took him on short outings and on more than one occasion the Founder fell out of the wheel chair into thorny shrubs because of their clumsiness or lack of skill, but he did not complain. He would smile and thank the poor novice who was responsible for the mishap. One of them remembers that “...his politeness was of the genuine kind, welling from the heart, for he meant what he expressed.”

When Brother Edmund was finally confined to his room, the novices came in to read to him from his bible or from the works of St. Teresa of Avila. These were his favourite books. At times he was able to slowly walk around the room with the help of one of the young brothers or a nurse. Towards the end he remained in bed drifting in and out of a semi-comatose state. One of the last young brothers to see him alive was Brother Stanislaus Hyland. He wrote: I was sent to Waterford in 1844, to finish my Novitiate and prepare for my Profession, and there was the Founder, my revered Superior, fast drawing to an end. Mine was the last hand, I think, that he shook in friendship on this earth. I had just returned from St. Patrick’s branch schools and I at once ran up to see him. He clasped my hand in his, now clammy before death....I disengaged my hand from his grasp, and he awoke and said to me “Good bye, and God bless you, my child”. He died the next morning.” (Burke)

At 4 a.m. of August 29, 1844, his nurse rang the bell to summon the brothers to his bedside as the Founder’s breathing became very raspy. Even at that moment, typical of the man, he was able to thank her “for what she had done for him by shaking hands with her and blessing her.” This was the beginning of his last agony. “With heavy breathing, which became every moment more oppressive, and increased in a few hours to a distressing rattle and a heaving of the chest, but without contortion or convulsive movement. Respiration became extremely difficult, and between eleven and twelve o'clock, with a deep sigh he breathed his last: the writer was present during the time and witnessed his expiring breath.” (Hearn) The Mount Sion brothers were at his bedside when he died as was Father Fitzgerald, the brothers’ chaplain. Bishop Foran of Waterford had visited him often during his last illness and anointed him.

The people of Waterford mourned for him as one of its most noble citizens. A simple funeral Mass and burial service were held at Mount Sion. Bishop Foran officiated at the rites which were very much in keeping with the low profile that Edmund Ignatius Rice and his brothers were wont to observe. The Bishop and civic officials wanted a much more public ceremony to do justice to such a great man. At a special meeting of local leaders, they unanimously decided to hold a public funeral within a month in order to give all the people of Waterford an opportunity to say farewell to Edmund Rice. The public tribute to Edmund Rice was announced by the bishop to take place in the Cathedral on October 1.

In the meantime newspapers in Waterford and elsewhere in Ireland and abroad reported the news of Edmund Rice's death. Editorials and articles were loud in their praises of the Founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers. A Waterford newspaper announced: The death of a venerable, a good, and in the best sense of the word, a great man—a man of powerful mind, of vast knowledge of human nature, of a comprehensive grasp of intellect, of undaunted courage, of irresistible perseverance of unbending integrity, of pure piety, of immense charity - Edmund Rice, the Founder of the Christian Schools — the herald of a new age to Irishmen in the way of instruction, the harbinger of virtue and of blessings, the benefactor of his species, not only in Ireland but in whatever quarter of the globe the present generation of the humbler classes of our fellow-countrymen have penetrated, because to Mr. Rice is mainly attributable the credit for whatever intellectual training they enjoyed.

Every brother in the Institute was invited by the Superior General, Paul Riordan, to come to Waterford on October 1, 1844 for the public funeral of the Founder. Fifty of the brothers did come — from England and from around Ireland — to be present as Waterford’s grateful citizens paid their final tribute to Brother Edmund Rice. Bishop Foran celebrated the Mass and invited all the guests to a dinner following it. He paid for this from his own funds. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was filled to capacity that day as the rich and the poor, churchmen and laity, pupils and their parents, Catholics and Protestants, the great and the ordinary turned out to show their love, appreciation and reverence for the Founder of the Christian Brothers. In the flowery oratory typical of the times, sermons, tributes and editorials were delivered with sincerity and appreciation not only in Waterford but full accounts were printed in the newspapers of Dublin, Clare, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Preston, London, St. John, (New Brunswick), Cincinnati and Boston. The Waterford committee that planned the solemn public funeral for Edmund Rice, in subsequent sessions provided for a suitable monument to perpetuate his memory.

By April of 1845 a new wing was added to Mount Sion containing a large chapel and another classroom. This two story structure was dedicated to the memory of Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice and stands today attached to the brothers’ residence and next to the bake house and tailor shop built by the Founder and the new Blessed Sacrament Chapel within which the remains of Edmund Rice are presently enshrined. Now, more than 150 years after Edmund’s death, the words of a Quaker friend seem to have been prophetic: “Mr. Rice is not dead! Yes, he lives...in the noble band of Christian workmen to whom he has bequeathed his spirit and his work.” Mount Sion, the first of his schools, without interruption has continued the work that Edmund envisioned and began in 1802 for the people of Waterford.

The following message was sent from Mount Sion to all the Brothers:

Mount Sion. 
Waterford.
August 29th. 1844.

My Very Dear Br. Director. We have the sorrow to announce to you the death of our most dear Father, Founder, and Brother Ignatius Rice, after receiving the Last Sacraments. His death was occasioned by a fit of apoplexy, with which he was attacked early this morning. He fell into his last agony between three and four o’clock, and departed at eleven am. We trust he is gone to receive the reward of his labour for the poor, the Institute, and for us all. May he rest in peace. I remain, my very dear Br. Director,
Your affectionate Brother,
P. J. MURPHY.

According to Garvan: After being confined to his room for the last two years of his life, Edmund was cared for by a nurse, Katie Lloyd, a sister of Brother John Lloyd, a lay-brother. A novice, Brother Stanislaus Hyland, was living at Mount Sion at this time, and on 28 August, 1844 returned from St. Patrick’s branch school in the afternoon. We have his own account of his last meeting with Edmund:  “I at once ran up to see him. He clasped my hand in his, now clammy before death. I noticed his grasp growing unconsciously closer and a doze seemed to come on him. His eyes were glassy. I was expecting the bell to ring for dinner and I said aloud to him, “Good bye, sir, the bell will ring soon.” I disengaged my hand from his grasp, and he awoke and said to me, “Good bye and God bless you, my child.” He died next morning” around 11a.m. after thanking the nurse, shaking hands with her, and blessing her, and wishing that the Brothers would never let her or her family be in want. The Brothers of Mount Sion were gathered around his bed.


Edmund’s reputation and legacy

According to Garvan, Give to the Poor In Handfuls, 1996: Although Edmund’s final six years on earth were spent away from the public eye, the news of his death resulted in a flood of tributes from persons and institutions at all levels of society. Newspapers in Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Waterford, London and Preston, USA and Newfoundland, ran articles on Edmund’s life and work.

The Waterford newspapers on the day of burial, recalled Edmund’s indefatigable zeal and said he was not only a benefactor of the city but one who was a great example of Christian living. A few days later The Tipperary Vindicatar in Nenagh attributed entirely to the vision and work of Edmund Rice whatever intellectual training the current generation enjoyed. It proclaimed him to be a man of powerful intellect, undaunted courage, unbending integrity, irresistible perseverance and immense charity: generous in giving, but most of all in giving himself. He was a Christian man and Brother in the most perfect sense of those words, a benefactor whose example and achievements would outlive any material monument.

Just a month after his death, Edmund’s memory was officially commemorated in Waterford Cathedral. The sermon, given by his confessor, Father Richard Fitzgerald, was to be printed five times before the end of the century. He spoke with confidence of Edmund’s enjoying already his reward “exceeding great,” and suggested that his audience pray to Edmund, since he belonged to all, had worked for all, and held an assured place in the hearts of the Irish nation. All Edmund’s great qualities, he said, had been channelled into charity towards his neighbour and obedience to the voice of God and God had chosen Edmund as an instrument to mediate Gods mercy to the lrish people.

Meetings later in the year called for a monument to be built to commemorate Edmund Rice, but one priest said that the monument to Edmund was already evident in the palpable moral legacy he had left behind him: if you are looking for a monument look around you here! Nevertheless a national appeal was set up in November, 1844, and on 8 September, 1845 the first stone of the Memorial Chapel of Our Lady of the Nativity was laid by Bishop Foran. Thomas Francis Meagher, Mayor of Waterford, and years later to be acting Governor of the state of Montana, USA, was present and wrote of this occasion: “While I stood a silent witness of the scene, I was almost prompted to exclaim ‘Friends, mourners and admirers of a great man, your work is needless! The good, wise and venerable man, Edmund Rice, to whom you this day raise a monument, has anticipated your gratitude and has reared with his own strong hands a monument that mankind shall reverence and heaven shall bless. There is not a soul instructed, enobled, purified in these schools of which he has been the founder that will not be his monument, which neither the rust nor the moth shall consume." 

In a small converted stable in Waterford, Edmund Rice launched an educational apostolate which in time woud spread not only throughout 'the kingdom', as he desired, but to the four corners of the earth. The timing of that initiative was crucial to its success, since the previous decades had brought a thaw in the penal laws which afforded unprecedented opportunities for the Catholic community to rebuild its Church. Within this process, Edmund Rice played a vital part, bringing his acumen and energy to a project which involved not simply the restoration of hte Church, but the creation of a modern literate nation.
Dr. Dáire Keogh, Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers, Four Courts Press, 2008, p. 17.

The burial and reburials of Edmund Rice

BURIAL in 1844

On 31 August 1844, two days after his death, Edmund Rice was buried in the community cemetery at Mount Sion.  Five Brothers (Laurence Bernard Byrne, Robert Joseph McClelland, Richard Regis O’Shea, James Joseph Ryan and Laurence Joseph Watson) had previously been buried in the cemetery.  Thirteen Brothers and the Mayor of Waterford were subsequently buried in the cemetery. The last burial was in 1887.  

REBURIAL in 1871 - within the Mount Sion graveyard

The Mount Sion annals contain the following statement: "On the 28th June, 1871, the remains of our revered Founder were removed from the N.E. Angle of the cemetery, and deposited in the centre of the N. side." This statement was written by the Superior of Mount Sion, Brother John Stanislaus O’Flanagan

On 10 July 1940, in a statement attested to by Brother Joseph Ignatius Doorley, and Laurence Masterson, Brother James Joseph Strahan stated:

I, Brother James Joseph Strahan, hereby testify that I was a member of the Mount Sion Community, Waterford, from November 1868 to June 1879; that I knew from common knowledge and from the memorial Cross that our revered Founder, Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice, was interred in the north-east corner of the cemetery at Mount Sion; that one day in 1871 or 1872 I saw his grave empty and the clay piled up on the west side of the grave, and on tip of the clay the skeleton of the Founder resting with parts of his coffin lying beside the skeleton; that Brother David Joseph Ryan [1851-1902] was with me and we both went to the grave and venerated the remains of the Founder, Brother Joseph Ryan taking up in his hands and reverently kissing the skull, while I venerated one of the larger bones;  that I know and believe that the remains of the Founder were re-interred in the grave in the centre of the north side of the Mount Sion cemetery over which a stone cross now stands; that it was the tradition of the Community and common knowledge that Brother Edmund Ignatius Rice was interred and his remains transferred as stated above, and that furthermore I frequently saw people come & pray at this second grave of our holy Founder, while I was a member of the Mount Sion Community in Waterford.

REBURIAL in 1940 - a new Mausoleum
On 15th July 1940 the remains of Edmund Rice were exhumed. This second exhumation was necessary, firstly to provide a site for the intended new primary school; secondly, to transfer the remains to the Mausoleum then in construction.

The witnesses to this exhumation were Jeremiah Kinnane (Bishop of Waterford & Lismore), James Aylward (Mayor of Waterford), P. Power (Canon), Dr. Matthew Maughan, Bro. Joseph Pius Noonan, Superior General, Bro. W M McCarthy, Vicar Superior General, Bro. Joseph Doorley, Assistant Superior. General, Bro Bartholomew Luke Ryan, Provincial Irish Province and Bro Daniel Berchmans Hoctor, Superior, Mount Sion, Waterford.

According to the testimony of the witnesses, the remains were found three feet eight inches below the surface of the ground and consisted of skull, as a whole excluding Manible, two humerii, two femora, two tibiae, two scapulae, two hip-bones (pubic arch incomplete), two radii and two ulnae, sacrum bone, two claviculae, vertebrae (24), a number of ribs, and other small bones.

The remains were removed from the grave together with the above-mentioned breast plate placed in an elm coffin lined with pitch.

On 4 April 1979 Brother James Raymond Farrell signed a document at Artane, Dublin.  Brother Farrell tells us that he travelled to Mount Sion on 15 July 1940 at the express wish of the Superior General.  He brought with him a supply of parchment, Indian ink and pens. He tells us that as the bones of the Founder were being removed singly from the grave they were washed in spirit of wine by Brother Hoctor, then handed to Doctor Maughan, who named each bone. Brother Farrell listed the names of all these bones in a note book.  While the guests were at lunch he made two copies of the statement which was later signed by the official witnesses. One vellum copy was placed in a cylinder to be placed in the Founder’s new coffin.  The other is in the General Council Archives.

On 16 May 1941 the remains of Edmund Rice were deposited in new mausoleum.

Reburial in 1978 - the Blessed sacrament Chapel
In 1978 the Superior General, Brother Justin Linus Kelty, decided to place the remains of the Founder in a chapel more convenient to the public.  The remains of the eighteen Brothers and Mayor of Waterford who were interred in the Mausoleum were exhumed and re-interred in the new chapel, then under construction. The remains of the eighteen Brothers were enclosed in three new elm coffins and those of Mr Lawlor were enclosed in a small casket.

The coffin was borne by members of the Mount Sion community and also by Brother Thomas C. Moloney who had helped carry the coffin to its resting place in the mausoleum on 15 May 1941. On 26 August 1979 the remains of Edmund Rice were placed in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Canonical Recognition of Remains of Edmund Rice, 4 September 1995
In accordance with the Instruction from the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, during the process before the beatification of Edmund Rice, the casket resting in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, containing the remains of Venerable Edmund Ignatius Rice, was opened on Monday, 4th September 1995.

Following a brief prayer service the outer casket was opened.  When the inner seals were found to be intact the inner coffin was opened. Some cloths were then placed in the coffin, each touching the Founder’s remains.  The bones and cloths were given into the charge of Brother Hickey who was the Postulator in the beatification process. The congregation was then permitted to venerate the remains. Following the sealing and closing of the coffin and casket the certificate was signed.