Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice


Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, 1762-1844

May 5

Born into a large family in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1762, Edmund Rice went to work for his uncle in a large import-export business in Waterford at the age of seventeen. After his uncle died, Edmund inherited the business. Married at the age of twenty-five, his wife died only two years later and Edmund spent much time caring for their infant daughter alone.

Edmund thought about becoming a monk, but a sister of the local bishop pointed to a group of ragged young boys passing by and reportedly said to him, “What! Would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?” Inspired by her words, Edmund talked with the local bishop, arranged for the care of his daughter, and around 1800 he began his work of founding Catholic schools for troubled youth.

Edmund took the name “Ignatius,” and he founded the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, better known as “Irish Christian Brothers.” His first school, Mt. Sion, opened within two years, and by 1806 he had founded three others. In 1820, Pope Pius VII gave his blessing to the work and confirmed Edmund’s group as the first congregation of religious men in Ireland. 

Before his retirement a few years before his death in 1844, he had founded eleven schools in Ireland, eleven in England, and one in Sydney, Australia. He was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1996. 

Discuss: Which is a holier role, being a monk or taking care of young people in poverty?

Religious Brothers

Point out that Blessed Edmund was a religious brother. Have the young people review page 202 to recall the role of a religious brother.

  • Emphasize that those who choose consecrated religious life dedicate their lives to God’s service and the good of the whole Church.
  • Ask: What vows does a religious brother or sister make?