By 1825 Edmund Rice and his 30 Brothers were educating free of charge over 5,500 boys in 12 different towns and cities of Ireland. Many boys were also being clothed and fed. The year 1825 also saw the expansion of the Brothers’ response to God’s call to provide the same liberating education for the poor in countries beyond Ireland.
When Edmund Rice contemplated the Waterford of 1802 and saw the plight of the poor, his response was daring, bold and imaginative. He established an education system for poor boys where none existed. It was a creative response to a crying need. Over the past two centuries, generations of brothers and their co-workers have built upon Edmund’s dream.
Christian Brothers and other members of the Edmund Rice Network are now working in over 30 countries across the globe. They are continuing to discern the signs of the times and respond to the needs of the poor and the earth, while working towards a just and sustainable future for all. Galvanised by recent Congregation Chapters, brothers have been encouraged to rediscover a splash of Edmund’s boldness and daring.
In Africa where the congregation has been growing steadily, the most obvious crying need is the scourge of HIV/Aids. The brothers have committed themselves to address this appalling tragedy through a variety of initiatives.
In South America, the crying need is the countless numbers of homeless children. Many of these unfortunates end up in squalid jails with no provision for their welfare. The brothers have responded by involvement in juvenile prison ministry, and by initiating projects for the education and care of street children.
In India, the brothers have traditionally worked in prestigious private schools. In more recent years, the brothers have changed the focus of their ministry, and all of their recent openings have been for the benefit of the Dalits, the untouchables, in the tribal villages.
Working with the poor, it soon becomes apparent that unjust structures ensure that the poor remain poor. Brothers have learned that advocacy on behalf of those who have no voice is an important dimension of their ministry.
Recently, the Christian and the Presentation Brothers have established an NGO called Edmund Rice International. Associated with ERI is a community of four brothers who live in Geneva, and work in advocacy at the United Nations. Brothers have heard the crying need of the earth itself, and appreciate the importance of advocacy on behalf of the whole earth community. A number of Eco-justice centres have been opened to raise awareness in the human community of the consequences of our profligacy and wasteful use of resources.
The Christian Brothers recognise that in the past the actions of some Brothers have had a horrendous impact on those abused. As a Congregation they now recognise that their highest priority is to create safe and secure environments for children and young people.