Edmund Rice and the Brothers Today
On 15 August 1808 Edmund Rice and six companions dedicated themselves by vow to God’s service. The rule adopted was that of the Presentation Sisters, approved by the Pope in 1805. From then on many of the Brothers’ establishments were referred to as Presentation Monasteries, and the Brothers as Presentation Brothers.
Between 1802 and 1820 schools had been opened in Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, Dungarvan, Cork, Dublin, Cappoquin, Limerick and Thurles. The Brothers in Cork and Thurles were volunteers from these cities, who were trained in Waterford, but returned home and made profession of vows to their diocesan Bishop. Like the Presentation Convents, the community was subject directly to the Bishop of the Diocese.
This system was not convenient for Edmund as his vision was to open schools “in all parts of the kingdom.” Transferring Brothers from one diocese to another was a complex process. However, while remaining autonomous, all communities looked to Edmund Rice and Waterford for guidance and direction.
In 1820 Pope Pius Vll approved the rule of the Religious Brothers. Its principal feature was that all the Brothers in all dioceses would be directly obedient to the Superior General. However, when the time came in 1822 to accept the new rule several Brothers and several communities declined to accept the new system. The principal school to opt out was in Cork.
One Brother in Cork, Brother Augustine Riordan, seeing the entire Cork community observing the new Rule approached the Bishop who permitted him to open his own school in the south side of Cork City. In that year there were two Presentation monasteries in Ireland, in Cork and Cappoquin. The Cappoquin school closed in 1845 with the death of its founder, Brother John Ignatius Mulcahy. In Cork, the North Monastery was run by the Christian Brothers while the South Monastery was run by the Presentation Brothers. The next Presentation School was opened in Killarney in 1836 under Brother Paul Townsend.
The Presentation Brothers were the first to open schools outside Europe, in India and the United States, in 1841. Among the early distinguished Presentation Brothers were Brother Michael Augustine Riordan and Charles Bernard Riordan from of Doneraile, County Cork.
The Presentation Brothers saw the organisational benefits enjoyed by the Christian Brothers of having Papal approval and they applied to Rome for similar approval which was given in 1889 and a Superior General was elected. The immediate result was the opening of new schools in Cork and Birr and further expansion followed in Ireland, England and worldwide.
In recent times, the Christian Brothers and Presentation Brothers are jointly involved in several new projects. These include the new development and the community at Mount Sion; the Advocacy & justice Office in Geneva; the promotion of devotion to their Founder; Blessed Edmund Rice; formation and retraining programmes like Trasna and Tóir; and in Edmund Rice Camps for needy children in Ireland. Both Congregations now have joint trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Centres in Callan and Waterford.
Today the Presentation Brothers live and work in Ireland, England, Canada, the United States of America, Peru, the West Indies and Ghana. Blessed Edmund Rice is honoured in the Mardyke in Cork where a special garden, honouring the women associated with him, has been developed.