The Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers Today…
An Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D. officially opened the completely refurbished Edmund Rice International Heritage Centre at Mount Sion, Barrack Street in Waterford on Friday, 8th February, 2008. The religious dedication ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Waterford, Bishop Lee, on Sunday 3rd February, 2008.
The new centre comprises a new chapel, a meditation garden and a completely refurbished museum and heritage centre. It is located in Waterford on the site where Edmund Rice founded his first community of Brothers and established his first school for the education of poor boys in the city, as he said himself, “to raise them to the status of men.”
The new buildings and centre is a joint venture of the two congregations of Brothers founded by Blessed Edmund Rice – the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers. The community now living at Mount Sion is an international community made up of members of both congregations. The Brothers come from America, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Pakistan. The new CEO of the Centre is Br. Pat Madigan a Christian Brother from Co. Clare who succeeds Andy Kuppe, an Australian member of the worldwide Edmund Rice Network. Barry O’Brien, the first CEO of the Centre, had overseen the new developments and buildings.
Edmund Rice began his educational mission among the poor of Waterford. His work was strongly supported by the people of the city, though some of his friends considered it a folly for him to give up his successful business career. However, the people of Waterford always expressed their appreciation of the work of this Kilkenny man. It is fitting that Waterford should hold pride of place in honouring and propagating the story of Edmund Rice whose spirit and mission has spread to all six continents.
There are about 350 Brothers in Ireland and England today. Though no longer visible in the schools to the same extent as in the past, the Brothers of both congregations have been evaluating and reframing their life and mission in Europe and further afield.
The Christian Brothers have created a new European Province for their life and mission into the future. In Ireland, within the last year, they have established three new communities, which are carefully developing a new form of community life for new expressions of mission. In particular, these communities are exploring with other people the meaning, value and purpose of all of life in the rapidly changing world and church in which they live. They are seeking to share their spiritual search with others.
Presentation Brothers have recently founded new communities in Slovakia and Nigeria. Both Congregations have jointly opened a new community in Geneva to work with organisations which advocate for the rights of children all over the world.
The educational work of the Brothers continues in schools and especially in Educational Life Centres which respond to the needs of young people who at different stages of their youthful journey find the mainstream schools unsuited to their needs.
The establishment of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust represents a radical shift in trusteeship and management of the brothers’ schools. The Brothers are formally handing trusteeship and management of the schools to men and women who are willing to take this responsibility as a service to young people in the state and in the church.
The Brothers’ congregations continue to grow and develop in thirteen countries in Africa as well as in India and South America. Indigenous Brothers, with some assistance from expatriate missionaries, are providing for the educational needs of poor and marginalised peoples. Like the Brothers in Europe, they are seeking new ways of living in community and like Edmund Rice, their values of presence, compassion and liberation are at the service of the poor through education and other empowering services.