The Tradition of Edmund Rice Education
The founder of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, Edmund Rice, was born on June 1, 1762, the fourth of seven sons, on a tiny farm near Callan, Ireland. After leaving school, Edmund went to the town of Waterford to assist in his uncle’s growing export business. He married about the age of twenty-five and after only two years of happy marriage, his wife died as a result of a horse-riding accident. His daughter, Mary, who outlived Edmund, was an invalid all her life. In 1795, his uncle died and Edmund inherited the business and with it considerable wealth.
But this newly-acquired wealth did not alter Edmund’s intimate understanding of and compassion for the poor and destitute. He saw that the underprivileged were being deprived of a worthwhile education and so, after 8 years of painful indecision, Edmund opened his first school in converted stables in New Street, Waterford, 1802. Edmund was now a teacher. This move, once made, clearly indicated that ‘no one was ever surer of himself’. His trust was in God. He frequently prayed to Mary, Mother of God, under the title “Mother of Perpetual Help”.
Before long he was training the young men who responded to his invitation to join him in this enterprise. When Br Edmund Rice died in 1844, 117 brothers made up the small congregation that had grown up around him.
The first Christian Brothers community arrived in Australia in 1843 when it was still only a collection of infant colonies. Though three small schools were opened, the venture was not a success, and the Brothers returned to Ireland in 1847.
Br Patrick Ambrose Treacey was selected to lead the second community of Brothers to far off Australia in 1868. In 1875 the Brothers arrived in Queensland and opened St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace, thus beginning their association with Queensland Education. Gregory Terrace began as the first Catholic Boys' Secondary School in the colony. In 1888 the Brothers opened their second school in Maryborough, Sacred Heart College, and also began the search for a place to re-locate the Boarding House at Gregory Terrace. In 1891 St Joseph's Nudgee College was established as the Boarding arm in Brisbane but soon established itself as an equally outstanding educational centre.
Throughout the years the Christian Brothers opened a number of day and boarding colleges throughout the state and in recent years have consolidated their commitment in this area. With a rich tradition in provision of education, the Brothers expanded their commitment to other ministries as well.
In October 2007, the congregation of Christian Brothers handed over governance of their schools in Australia to the board of Edmund Rice Education Australia.