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Blessed Edmund Rice, founder of both the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, was born in Ireland in 1762. The son of a prosperous farmer, he grew to become a successful and influential merchant in the city of Waterford, where he was known as a devout Catholic and generous benefactor to the poor. After a brief marriage that tragically ended with his wife Mary’s death in 1789, the widowed Edmund now also responsible for the care of his infant daughter found strength and comfort in prayer, scripture reading and the Eucharist. His concern for the poor began to focus on the education and care of street children in the city. His aim was that they might come to know God through their Catholic faith and he was convinced that education would enable them to rise out of their impoverished state.
Edmund gave up his comfortable home for a room above the stable which served as his first school. He supported the venture financially by the profits from his business. Other young men, impressed by his example, joined him in his service to the poor. His first permanent school building, Mt. Sion, included a tailor shop and bakery so that the students might also be fed and clothed. Edmund and his "brothers" took their first vows in 1808, as members of the Society of the Presentation under authority of the local bishop. By 1820, the group had so expanded throughout Ireland that Pope Pius VII granted them status as a Pontifical Congregation under the title of Christian Brothers. The Rule of the Congregation was officially ratified by the General Chapter of 1832. Edmund Rice was declared Blessed by Blessed Pope John Paul II on October 6, 1996 in Rome and is recognized as a man of heroic virtue and a model for others.
The Christian Brothers are lay religious who are missioned by the Church specifically for the evangelization of youth and the education and care of the materially poor. The Brothers profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and commit their lives to ministry and prayer. The Congregation is dedicated to providing a strong, value-centered, Christian education on behalf of the materially poor. Today, the Congregation of Christian Brothers consists of more than 1900 brothers, with its General Headquarters in Rome and some 350 communities in the U.S., and in more than 39 other countries throughout the world. The larger Edmund Rice network includes former Brothers, Associates, and lay staff in their ministry sites.
The Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North American Province consists of approximately 200 brothers laboring in more than 40 ministry sites.
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