May the schools “spread before long in most parts of the Kingdom” – Blessed Edmund Rice, 1810
Greetings to all in Edmund Rice Education Australia,
The feast day of Blessed Edmund Rice has been celebrated on May 5th since his beatification by the then Pope John Paul II in 1996. The Pope spoke of Edmund as "a shining example of the fruitfulness of the Christian Life. Here we have an outstanding model of a true lay apostle and a deeply committed Religious." Though there have been quite a number of people, among whom are the Christian Brothers, who have chosen to follow Edmund as a Religious we are all challenged to follow him as a "true lay apostle".
Pope Francis in his Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel reminds us that:
Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus...
We in Edmund Rice Education Australia have expressed this engagement in evangelisation in the Charter Touchstone of Gospel Spirituality:
We invite people into the story of Jesus and strive to make his message of compassion, justice and peace a living reality within our community.
Edmund is described in his obituary in the Cork Examiner on the 9th of September 1844 as “a man of indefatigable zeal and charity, endowed with great prudence, energy and perseverance”. They noted rather generously that “He first laid the foundation of an educational system for the children of the Catholic poor of Ireland”. We may not be called to emulate all that Edmund was and did in his following of Jesus, but we can certainly undertake the challenge in our own families and communities of proclaiming the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The obituary in the Cork Examiner notes that at the time of Edmund's death "There are eleven houses of the order in Ireland, twelve in England, one in Sydney". Three Brothers had arrived in Sydney in 1843 and established three schools in the city. Some difficulties arose for the Brothers and they returned to Ireland in 1847.
One of the Brothers who was part of that first Sydney community was Br Francis Larkin. On his return to Ireland he was appointed as Principal and leader in the community of Brothers at Thurles. One of the boys in his school was a Patrick Treacy. No doubt, as is the way in classrooms today, the boys were able to get the teacher to tell stories and Patrick and his friends would have been told all about the experiences that Francis had had in this place at the end of the earth. Francis encouraged Patrick when he was a young man to consider joining the Christian Brothers.
At the age of seventeen Patrick went to Waterford to enter the Novitiate in 1852. It was barely sixteen years later that the now Br Patrick Ambrose Treacy would lead a community of Brothers to the other side of the world. This time the Christian Brothers came to Melbourne.
The days this year around the Feast Day of Blessed Edmund Rice have been chosen as the days on which a representative group of the Edmund Rice Movement in Oceania will gather to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Br Patrick Ambrose Treacy, Br Dominic Fursey Bodkin, Br John Barnabas Lynch and Br Patrick Joseph Nolan.
A number of people associated with EREA will be participating in these days which have as a tag line "From Edmund to Ambrose to us". The purpose of the gathering is to
commemorate the arrival in Melbourne 150 years ago of four pioneer Christian Brothers;
acknowledge the inheritance we have received from them and from all those who have followed in Edmund Rice ministry of any kind;
share our passion for this great work and to dream a future we can create together that will honour this inheritance in new, creative and practical ways.
As the leader of the Brothers first community and eventually as the Provincial of the Australasian Province, Ambrose Treacy established, built, and maintained schools and their Brothers communities across what is now two countries, always concerned for his Brothers and their charges. What Fr Patrick Hartigan (the poet John O'Brien) had to say about Ambrose's preparation for the Brothers' arrival at St Patrick's College, Goulburn could well summarise the passion of Ambrose, "He had a one track mind, in the sense that he had no thought but the Kingdom of God and the Brothers' part in establishing it."
As we each reflect on the passion in the life of Edmund and in that of Ambrose and hopefully seek the passion in our own life may we find both comfort and challenge in the words of Pope Francis:
all of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives.
Paul D Oakley cfc
President, Edmund Rice Education Australia
On behalf of the Council – 5th May 2018
We acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia as the traditional owners and custodians of the land of our schools. We are inspired and nurtured by their wisdom, spirituality and experience. We commit ourselves to actively
work alongside them for reconciliation and justice. We pay our respects to the Elders; past, present and future. As we take our next step we remember the first footsteps taken on this sacred land.