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Edmund Ignatius Rice was born in Callan, Ireland, in 1762. Edmund had the good fortune of being brought up in relative comfort while the majority of his countrymen were relegated to near destitution due to the policy of religious persecution of the occupying British Government. At the age of seventeen, after a childhood spent on the family farm, he was apprenticed to his uncle, a merchant in Waterford, South-East Ireland. Edmund prospered and became the owner of the business and at the age of twenty five he married Mary Elliott. Two years later she died leaving him a psychologically daughter for whom he cared lovingly throughout his life.
As a widower, Edmund was known for his spirit of prayer and his practical charity. Though attracted to a life of prayer in a continental monastery, he realized, through a conversation with a friend and the example of Nano Nagle, Foundress of the order of Presentation Sisters, which God was calling him to work for destitute, ignorant people, especially youth.
Edmund spent his entire life in helping the poor personally. He undertook legal proceedings to ensure that money left to help them went to them and not to dishonest officials. He regularly visited the prisons, consoling the condemned and provided them with hope for a better world.
Though Edmund helped the poor in numerous ways, he saw that a holistic, value-based education as the best means of making them aware of their human and spiritual dignity as children of God. In 1802, at the age of forty, he sold his business and, unassisted, opened his first school in a converted stable in Waterford. His courageous example attracted followers. In 1808, with six companions, he made vows as a religious Brother, marking the foundation of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
In the beginning the Brothers owed obedience to the local Bishop, being known as Presentation Brothers. In 1822, Edmund and most of the Brothers adopted a central organization and the Christian Brother rule of life approved by Pope Pius VII. Those Brothers who remained Diocesan retained the name, Presentation Brothers.
Edmund was a strong, rounded personality, intelligent and practical. He was balanced in temperament and appreciated the efforts of others. He was remarkable for his trust in Divine Providence. He died in 1844. Till today, in many places around the world on the six continents he is venerated for the holiness of his life. His remains rest in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, Mount Sion, Waterford.
During his life time, his work spread throughout Ireland and to England, Gibraltar and Australia. Today his Brothers continue his mission in over 400 foundations in thirty countries. Edmund Ignatius Rice was beatified by His Holiness Pope John Paul II on the 5th of May, 1995.
Edmund's charisma continues to inspire many men and women around the world. Fired by his spirit they carry on his message to the youth of today. Besides the Congregations of the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers, the worldwide Edmund Rice Network focuses the zeal and enthusiasm of many who wish to commit their talents and time to the work envisioned and started by Edmund.
His spirituality that of brothers and sisters who break the “Word” of God experienced in their lives to each other in community is especially relevant in our world today.