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Rice's Business Devotions Mount Sion Obituary




The Cork Examiner




(From the Tipperary Vindicator)

The Waterford papers announce the death of a venerable, a good and, in the best sense of the word, a great man — a man of powerful mind — of vast knowledge of human nature — of a comprehensive grasp of intellect — of undaunted courage — of irresistible perseverance — of unbending integrity — of pure piety — of immense charity — Edmond Rice, the founder of Christian Schools— the herald of a new age of Irishmen, in the way of instruction — the harbinger of virtue and of blessings — the benefactor of his species, not only in Ireland but in whatever quarter of the globe the present generation of the humbler classes of our fellow countrymen have penetrated, because to Mr. Rice is mainly attributable the credit of whatever intellectual training they enjoy. We regret our Waterford contemporaries have confined their notice of the loss of this inestimable man to a simple paragraph—The following are the words of the announcement in the Mail and the Chronicle:—

''At Mount Sion, in this city, in the 87th year of his age the venerable Brother Edmond Ignatius Rice, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Ireland and England.  The health of this venerable man has been declining for nearly three years. He bore his protracted illness with patience and resignation to the Divine will. In this city he founded his first establishment for the gratuitous education of boys in the year 1803, which has since branched out to the principal towns in this country and in England. He was a man of indefatigable zeal and charity, endowed with great prudence, energy and perseverance. He resigned the office of  superior-general of his institute in the year 1838, in order to give his undivided attention to the concerns of his immortal soul. The city of Waterford particularly has lost in him one of its best benefactors.''

We regret that those who are on the spot have not been able to contribute more particulars of the life and exertions of this truly excellent man. We have had opportunities of knowing and appreciating his exalted work — of witnessing in some degree the extent and value of his labours — of being partially acquainted with the strength and depth of the magnificent edifice which he raised for the instruction of the the poor of his native city in the first instance, and of Ireland, almost universally, afterwards. We have had some means of judging of the vast advantage conferred upon society by his ceaseless toils. We would endeavour, therefore to supply the void left by our Waterford contemporaries, to whom, we should have looked for the minutest particulars connected with the subject .

Mr. Rice, as appears from the paragraph written above given had arrived at the middle period of life before he founded the Christian schools, he was in fact forty six years of age at the time. But for some years he was engaged in planning the system, whose maturity he enjoyed the gratification of witnessing, and whose triumph is one of the most remarkable features in the modern history of Ireland. In 1803 he commenced an establishment in Waterford, for the gratuitous instruction of youth in literature and Christian piety. He was joined in the undertaking by two young men, desirous of devoting their lives to the same laudable purposes. In May, 1804, during the episcopacy of the Right Rev. John Power, a prelate whose memory is held in deserved reverence to this day in Waterford, the schools were opened. We are not exactly informed of the causes operated on the mind of Mr. Rice to take this step. It was a new—it must have been a hazardous one just then. The great mass of the people were utterly unacquainted with even the rudiments of learning. The country had been suffering from the effects of the rebellion of 1798 — the mad rebellion of the unfortunate Emmet only broke out. The achievements of Napoleon were attracting universal concern, and causing general alarm. We believe that Mr. Rice's early life had not given promise of that religious seriousness which he now began to display. He had been engaged in trade—if we be not incorrect, it was in the provision trade — then one of the principal branches of business in Waterford, where, though the export of beef is annihilated that of bacon, even at this day is greater than from any other port of Ireland. His avocations brought him into immediate contact with the working classes. He perceived their ignorance — he perceived that in many instances irreligion proceeded from their ignorance — and that to its prevalence much of the crime that at abounded could also be traced.  He lived in a part of the city where vice and ignorance prevailed to a greater extent than elsewhere. En passant, we may observe that about this time also Mr. Rice had a brother in Cadiz who occasionally lived in San Lucar de Berramueda and Seville, and who was also engaged in trade he, too, abandoned the desk for the cloister, became an Agustinian friar, and by his abilities, energy, and piety did vast service to his order in Ireland; he lived for many years in Callan, and died some years ago in Malta, to which place he went from Rome on business connected with order. Mr Rice having once embarked on the cause he undertook was resolved to persevere; he did not mind the difficulties that opposed his progress — every obstacle tended but to give him more nerve — he was determined to work out the great achievement on which he had set his heart. He and his associates, few, but zealous, proceeded successfully in their good work. Daily augmentations were made to the numbers that flocked to their schools. They could have had no better cradle for their infant instruction than Waterford, where the purest piety and unbounded charity have always been known to exist, and where a princely magnificence on the part of the citizens in forwarding every benevolent object has always been known to prevail. It was but a few years before, and just when they were permitted by law, that the citizens erected one of the noblest edifices ever raised in this country to the worship of God, and one which has not since been surpassed in Ireland. The acute judgement of the learned Mr. Milner passed upon the facade of the Catholic cathedral of Waterford a high eulogium, and great was the compliment coming from the accomplished historian of Winchester cathedral, though Mr. Pagin [sic] is said to have expressed himself differently on a recent occasion. Mr. Rice and his companions attracted the attention of pious and benevolent citizens. Paul Carroll — a name which shall never be forgotten in Waterford — aided their incipient efforts, as he knew how to do. Thomas O’Brien, an eminent wine merchant — one of the good old times — a gentleman in the purest acceptation of the term, appreciated the good they performed, founded a school and establishment at his own expence in Carrick-on-Suir, of which town we believe he was a native, and this with the approbation of Dr. Power. 

The school was finished in 1807, and is now one of the best of the description in Ireland, presided over for many years by a truly religious and good man, who has done material service to the community. In the same year, Dungarvan participated in a similar advantage. The school in Dungarvan had been for many years situated outside the town, at a place called Shandon; it was too small for the numbers that flocked to it; but the present truly apostolic Bishop of Waterford, the Right Rev. Dr. Foran, when parish priest of Dungarvan, built a magnificent schoolhouse, and a residence for the Christian Brothers at his own expense; and there are no buildings in Ireland belonging to the order superior to them. In Cork the next foundation was laid; this was in 1811 — and when we say that it was there that Gerald Griffin ended his days, we have said almost sufficient in praise of the noble institution of which that city boasts, and which is known as the Peacock Lane schools — presided over by a gentleman of the most extensive acquirements, and of the most solid piety and purest benevolence. In 1812 an establishment was founded in Dublin, where the order made unexampled progress, and where Mr. Rice lived for years, at the house in Townsend Street. 

In 1815 the Most Rev. Dr. Bray introduced the order to Thurles, where the establishment flourishes admirably, doing incalculable service. The Right Reverend Dr. Tuohy introduced the order in Limerick in 1816, and on the 5th of September, 1820, the Bull of Pope Pius VII was issued confirming the institute as a religious order. Mr. Rice was elected to the office of superior-general on the 12th of January, 1822, after a retreat conducted by the late distinguished, learned, and apostolic Dr. Peter Kenny, S.J., whose family resided in Waterford, where his brother was for many years at the head of one of the most respectable medical establishments in the south of Ireland. At the end of ten years the Pope’s brief having provided that a general chapter should be held at the end of every ten years, and that the superior-general should govern for ten years only, Mr. Rice was re-elected to the high office he had held, in January, 1833, at a chapter convened at the house of the order, North Richmond Street, Dublin. This establishment is one of the principal of the society, and may be said to have been the offspring of the Catholic Association — the foundation stone having been laid by the illustrious O’Connell in June, 1828, surrounded by a vast multitude, who walked in procession from the Corn Exchange to witness the ceremony. This house, from its opening in 1831, became the principal residence of Mr. Rice for the remainder of his official life, and if anything more than wanting to add to its celebrity as an educational establishment, it would be found in the fact — that it was to this retreat of society and learning that Gerald Griffin repaired in 1838, and entered as a novice among the Christian Brothers. 

In July, 1838, Mr. Rice resigned his office of superior, years and infirmities pressing hard upon him; and we may say that since that period he withdrew himself almost entirely from the cares in which he had been so long engaged, and devoted himself with pious assiduity to those more sublime concerns to which he ever attended, and of the necessity of which his life was a constant example to others. There are eleven houses of the order in Ireland, twelve in England, one in Sydney, and the applications for their extension to the colonies and other parts of Great Britain and Ireland are constant and unremitting. We have thus hastily sketched an imperfect outline of the life of this great and good man. Mr. Rice enjoyed the intimate friendship of many of the Catholic prelates of Ireland and England, and of the leaders of the Catholic body in both countries. He and the Liberator were always on terms of the most sincere esteem and respect.  His masculine mind — his undaunted energy — his integrity and perseverance, were qualities whish won admiration at the hands of all who came into contact with him.  He was trustee of several charities. The bequests left to his own institution were numerous and munificent; and there can be no doubt but that the best possible use has been made of them. Well may he say — 

“Ezegl monumentum aere perennius.” 

He first laid the foundation of an educational system for the children of the Catholic poor of Ireland. On many and many a man, born in poverty, and who might have been brought up in crime, has he been instrumental of, not only rescuing from peril, but affording the means of arriving at eminence in the merchantile [sic] world, and perhaps, in the learned professions. To his order he was a solid example of every virtue — to the community at large he was the same. On all hands he was a Christian man in the most perfect sense of the word. The city which gave him birth has given the same to to other illustrious men; but there is not one among the roll, perhaps, more conspicuous for public usefulness than Edmond Ignatius Rice, who has just been called, in the fullness of venerable years, to receive the reward of his labours in that kingdom after which he long sighed.  His remains are laid in the cemetery at Mount Sion, Waterford, and may he rest in peace.

In 1944 the remains of Bro. Rice were translated to a mausoleum in the grounds of Mount Sion and then, in 1979, they were removed to a beautiful chapel beside the site of original grave. The casket containing the remains of Blessed Edmund Rice may be seen in the Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament.

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