Brother Edmund Rice Collection: A History of Christian Brother Contributions

Authored by Jenna L. Caccavale

This was an annual publication by the Congregation of Christian Brothers detailing activities at their various schools around the world. 1887 was the first volume. It is bound with the issues published in 1888-1891. This volume is part of the Brother Edmund Rice Collection housed within the Archive and Special Collections at Iona College’s Ryan Library.

The Archives Room within Ryan Library at Iona College stores the Archive and Special Collections. The contents are related to Irish life and literature. One of the collections housed here is the Brother Edmund Rice Collection (Iona College 2020).

Iona College is a nurturing and intellectual environment influenced by the legacy of Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers who symbolize “opportunity, justice, and the liberating power of education” (Iona College 2020, para. 1). The main goal of the college is to cultivate scholarly queries, community engagement, and an admiration for diverseness (Iona College 2020).

Edmund Rice developed the Congregation of the Christian Brothers and helped them build numerous successful schools. In 1802, Edmund Rice converted a stable into a primary school where he taught six impoverished young men in Waterford, Ireland (McLaughlin 2008). The following year, he constructed a larger building where three men who shared his vision and himself taught. They “combined a semi-monastic regimen with the hard work of teaching unruly boys under primitive conditions” (Donohue 1996, 6). These men strived to be Christians devoted to serving others. The Brothers and Edmund Rice dedicated their lives to aiding those who were poor, unemployed, and uneducated. The Brothers at the school in Waterford took vows and embraced a way of life similar to the Presentation Sisters whose order is dedicated to educating needy children. Each brother chose a religious name to become their’s. The Brothers in the United States sponsor Iona College and teach at many primary and secondary schools that are diocesan or parochial (Donohue 1996).

The Christian Brothers’ reactions to difficulties were not influenced only by faith or politics, but a consolidation of the two. When the British government created educational standards meant to pertain to all Irish children and the National University of Ireland was conceived due to the blessing from Cardinal Newman, the Brothers combated both. They believed the motives of those actions were to secularize Ireland (Fauske 2011).

The educational record discusses the points above and highlights the Brothers’ intentions to teach “literacy, numeracy, self-disciple, and social skills” (Connolly 2009, 633). The Christian Brothers’ education includes evangelizing young people using the Church’s mission, being able to announce and see Catholic identity, remaining in solidarity with individuals discounted due to bias and being poor, and encouraging and empowering a network of faith. It also includes praising the worth and respect of every individual and sustaining the development of the individual, calling for joint effort and shared obligation in its central goal, and seeking after greatness (Vercruysse 2007). The Christian Brothers abandoned the National Board of Education and created a Catholic education system that would not be under episcopal control. The Brothers founded one Catholic education system ran by bishops and another managed by brothers (McNally 2010). The Brothers’ motto is “Catholic and Celtic, to God and Ireland True” (McNally 2010, 592).

Similar to The Christian Brothers, St. John’s University (2015) is eager to serve others and provide education for those less fortunate economically, physically, and socially. The Vincentian tradition values being compassionate and aims to accomplish world peace by abolishing poverty and social injustice by creating strategies that are adjustable, practical, and specific (St. John’s University 2015).      


Connolly, S. J. 2009. “Edmund Rice and the First Christian Brothers.” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 60, no. 3 (July): 632–33. British Library Serials (ISSN 0022-0469).

Donohue, John W. 1996. “Edmund Ignatius Rice (1762-1844).” America 175, no. 9 (October): 6–7. ArticleFirst (ISSN 0002-7049). 

Fauske, Christopher J. 2011. “Edmund Rice and the First Christian Brothers.” Church History 80, no. 2 (June): 422. CrossRef (ISSN 0009-6407).

Iona College. 2020. “Archive & Special Collections.” About The Libraries. Adopted May 2, 2012.

Iona College. 2020. “Mission Statement.” Mission, Vision & Values.,and%20an%20appreciation%20for%20diversity.

McLaughlin, Denis. 2008. “The Irish Christian Brothers and the National Board of Education: Challenging the Myths.” History of Education 37, no. 1 (January): 43–70. ERIC (ISSN 0046-760X).

McNally, Vincent J. 2010. “Edmund Rice and the First Christian Brothers.” The Catholic Historical Review 96, no. 3 (July): 591–93. British Library Serials (ISSN 0008-8080).

St. John’s University. 2015. “Our Mission.” St. John’s Mission and Values. Last modified 2020.

The Christian Brothers. 1887. The Christian Brothers’ Annual Educational Record. Dublin: The Christian Brothers.

Vercruysse, Raymond J. 2007. “Authentic Expression of Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education.” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice 11, no. 2 (December): 226–40. ERIC (ISSN 1097-9638).

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