Recognising the achievements of Edmund Rice's order, and its failures
RITE & REASON:The Christian Brothers made a valuable contribution to Irish education
ON THIS, the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great Irishman, Blessed Edmund Rice, we, the past pupils and friends of Christian Brothers and Edmund Rice schools, mark a significant moment in history. The history of a man who has left such a lasting impression on his country; and his legacy that has transformed the prospects of hundreds of thousands of young people on all five continents through education in schools, such as my own, CBS Westland Row.
Past students of the Christian Brothers have a shared history, one that is woven into the fabric of our daily lives. This is why as a group, we felt, in this anniversary year, that it was our duty to acknowledge the ideals of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice and of the tireless and selfless efforts of the many great men who followed in his footsteps to improve the welfare and prospects of the communities into which they themselves were born.
An education is something that, quite rightly, has come to be expected as a basic human right. It was not always thus. For so many years education in Ireland was seen as the preserve of the well-off, perpetuating disadvantage and the gap between rich and poor.
Despite significant and often justified criticism of the Christian Brothers, the fact remains that the presence of a Christian Brothers school in a locality resulted in education and self-improvement that would not otherwise have occurred. And the Brothers continue to work with the world’s poor.
Ireland today is different from the Ireland of the last century. Society and local communities have evolved and the Edmund Rice tradition has had to evolve to remain relevant. In 2007, the 100-plus schools on the island of Ireland transferred to an independent trust under the stewardship of committed lay men and women.
The respective Edmund Rice Schools Trusts North and South, have taken on the challenge of educating tomorrow’s Pádraig Pearses, Niall Quinns, Martin Storeys and JP McManuses – Ireland’s future generations of game-changers.
The Brothers themselves have put themselves back with the poor of the world, working with those that are the most disadvantaged and far off from opportunity – whether it be in Africa, India, Latin America or Oceania. We send our very best wishes to them for this work in continuing on the vision and legacy of Edmund Rice.
Just as there can be no denial that some who purported to follow the teachings of Edmund Rice lost their way and besmirched his legacy, others, the silent majority, upheld his philosophy in a true Christian tradition and their legacy should not be forgotten. It must be acknowledged, however, that there are past pupils who did not have the same good experience that most of us did. We are all brought together, however, by our common bond of being past pupils. They have a very special and equal place in the Edmund Rice community.
Next Saturday evening, former president Mary McAleese and Senator Martin McAleese will join past pupils and friends of the Edmund Rice/Christian Brothers schools in the Convention Centre Dublin for an evening of music, film and keynote addresses, marking this anniversary year. Past pupils from all over Ireland are invited to this event to reunite with old friends and colleagues from Ireland and England, and to acknowledge their shared experience.
The evening’s programme will feature choral performances, music from the Artane Band, presentations and videos of education in Ireland and in the missions, and keynote speeches by Mrs McAleese; president of St Patrick’s College and John Hope prize-winning academic Dr Dáire Keogh; and activist and author Fr Peter McVerry.
Tickets for the event are free, but must be booked in advance by calling 01-8196782 or at erbeyond250.org/tickets.
Jim Bradley is a past pupil of CBS Westland Row and chairman of the Edmund Rice 250 Event Steering Committee