Blessed Edmund Rice was born in Callan, Ireland, in 1762. As a young man, he began working for his uncle in Waterford. He made his way up the company and took over when his uncle died, amassing a great fortune.
When his wife passed away and his daughter was grown, Edmund began to consider leaving his life behind and joining a monastery. But one day, while he was discussing his plans with a friend, they ran into a group of poor young boys on the street. His friend was inspired, and asked Edmund: “Would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?”
Edmund saw the conversation as a sign from God and began working to improve the lives of poor children through education. He founded a school in Waterford, Ireland, in 1802, to help poor boys “become good Catholics and good citizens.”
He sold his business and dedicated himself to his mission. In 1808, Edmund founded the Presentations Brothers, an order of men dedicated to education, and the first order of men founded in Ireland. The pope approved the rule of the community in 1821, and the name was changed to the Christian Brothers. By 1825, Edmund and his 30 Christian Brothers were providing free education, clothing, and food, to nearly 5,500 boys in 12 different towns.
Edmund served as the superior general of the community until 1838, when he retired at 76. He died in 1844, and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996, who called Edmund “an outstanding model of a true lay apostle.”