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The Congregation of Christian Brothers is dedicated to providing a strong, value-centered, Christian education on behalf of the materially poor. The Christian Brothers are lay religious who are missioned by the Church for the evangelization of youth and the education and care of the materially poor. The Congregation of Christian Brothers has successfully provided this education for almost two hundred years in 250 schools and colleges throughout the world.
Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844) founded the Congregation of Christian Brothers in 1802 in Waterford, Ireland, in order to provide quality, Catholic education to the materially poor. He heard God’s call in the poor, uneducated, marginalized young boys of Ireland. Edmund Rice began to establish Catholic schools, although such schools were illegal at that time. He took in the boys everyone else had given up on. It did not take long for him to realize that he must attend to all the needs of the boys — food, clothing, and housing.
By the end of the nineteenth century the Congregation had grown steadily in membership and Brothers had moved to many different countries around the world. The first Brothers came to Newfoundland in 1876 and to the United States in 1906. During the twentieth century the Brothers expanded throughout Canada and the United States and opened schools and ministries in many cities and towns. The Brothers also expanded into many countries overseas with vastly different cultural traditions and diverse pastoral needs.
All of these movements have been an attempt to respond to the urgings of the Spirit. The vision of Edmund was to see God in the marginalized and the poor and to try and enable those without a voice to be heard. The challenge for the future is to have our hearts transformed through a shared reflection on these experiences in the light of the Gospel.
Brothers profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. As Brothers, they commit their life to that of ministry and prayer. The links below provide more information on the Congregation of Christian Brothers.
For information about the Congregation of Christian Brothers and a vocation as a Christian Brother, visit www.iona.edu/about/cfc/brotherhood.htm or www.cfcvocations.org. Note: TC does not control the content accessed by these links.
Written and adopted at the “Education Conference 2000”, Iona College, July 2000
Blessed Edmund was given the grace to respond to the call of Jesus by identifying with Christ in the poor. His example evoked a deep awareness of God’s loving presence in all with whom he came in contact. He awakened within them a consciousness of their dignity as children of God. He invited his followers to share his Gospel insight, and empowered them to reach out to the needy, especially the materially poor. The life of Blessed Edmund Rice – businessman, husband, father, widower, religious brother, teacher, and founder – challenges all involved in Christian Brother Education to live and teach Gospel values in today’s world. His charism inspires the Essential Elements of a Christian Brother Education.
In ministry begun by Jesus Christ and inspired by the vision of Blessed Edmund Rice, a Christian Brother Education …Evangelizes youth within the mission of the church
Proclaims and witnesses to its Catholic identity
Stands in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice
Fosters and invigorates a community of faith
Celebrates the value and dignity of each person and nurtures the development of the whole person
Calls for collaboration and shared responsibility in its mission
Pursues excellence in all its endeavors
Blessed Edmund Rice, the founder of the Congregation 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 of the poor. After a brief marriage, tragically ended by his wife's death in a riding accident, the widowed Edmund 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, as well as to equip 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 Waterford 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, that the students might be fed and clothed. Edmund and his "brothers" took their first vows in 1808, as members of the Society of the Presentation under the 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. The rule of the congregation was officially ratified by the General Chapter of 1832 and the Irish Christian Brothers were born.
Today, the Congregation of Christian Brothers (as it is now known) consists of more than 2600 brothers with its Generalate in Rome and 350 communities in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, South Africa, India, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in mission houses throughout South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific.
The Eastern American province consists of 200 brothers in 23 communities, as well as a mission in Peru with 5 communities.
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