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Mass to Mark 200th Anniversary of Edmund Rice Brothers in Dublin

A special mass to commemorate 200 years of ministry by the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers in the Archdiocese of Dublin took place at the weekend.

The challenge of witnessing to diversity and inclusion requires the Church to relinquish some of its presence in education and to identify the role the Church will play in the future, according to Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin in the Edmund Rice Commemoration homily this weekend.

He added that if the right decisions are made Catholic education, alongside other forms of patronage, has a vital and a bright future and said: “One way or another change will happen. We need the courage and determination of people like Edmund Rice to ensure that the way Irish society changes in the years to come will be one where honesty and hard work, dedication and selflessness, dominate over greed, self-interest and the quick fix.”

Archbishop Martin was speaking at the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Presentation Brothers and of the Christian Brothers to the Archdiocese of Dublin. In his homily at Saint Agatha’s Church, Dublin, on Saturday (19th January), said that Edmund Rice was a friend of the poor, and saw that the inherited poverty of so many young children in the Ireland was lack of access to education. Edmund Rice was determined to respond to that need.

“Within one generation the sons and daughters of the poor received through Catholic education a personal enrichment which enabled them to enhance their own personal lives, their family life and the life of society. Education coupled with a vision of honesty, hard work and solidarity changed the lives of generations and paved the path of the future development of Ireland,” said Archbishop Martin.

He added that although Rice was a comparatively wealthy man he opted for poverty and he and his followers opted for a style of “austere evangelical poverty” so that others would to be enriched. Christian Brothers School came at minimal cost to the society that benefitted from it.

The Archbishop said that he has listened to stories of children whose experience in schools and institutions run by the brothers saddened him, but he had also heard stories which were precisely the opposite.

“In one of the saddest letters I read about an unhappy boy in an industrial school who was scathing in his criticism of his experience, he added the words: “except for Brother Francis”. I have no idea who Brother Francis was and whether he is still alive. He may have become a superior or he may never have, but he represents for me Edmund Rice, a unique point of light and an anchor of care for a troubled boy.”

Archbishop Martin added: “Perhaps my predecessors in their good intentions distracted the brothers by inviting them to run more and more schools and become part of the institutionalised educational system. Yes, this was necessary. But there was also a sense in which this may have rendered less fertile another part of the charism of Edmund Rice which is today thankfully re-emerging.”


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