The Founder of the Congregation of Christian Brothers was Blessed Edmund Rice. Brother Rice was born a Catholic in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1762 and died in Waterford, Ireland in 1844. He was a wealthy businessman, a widower and parent. At a time when most Irish people were extremely poor and living under repressive laws, Brother Rice was fortunate to work in his uncle’s business and became a wealthy and influential citizen of the city of Waterford.
Edmund seemed to have everything — financial security, a prospering business, and a happy marriage. But in 1789, his wife died in a tragic accident. He struggled to find meaning in her death and heard the Word of God in the poor, uneducated, marginalized young boys of Ireland. At a time when Catholic schools were illegal, he began what seemed the impossible task of educating Ireland's poor.
Brother Rice founded the Congregation of Christian Brothers in 1802 in Waterford. The Brothers first came to the United States in 1906 and opened their first school in Harlem, New York in 1909. The Congregation of Christian Brothers founded Iona College in 1940.
His Holiness John Paul II beatified Edmund Ignatius Rice on October 6, 1996, in St. Peter's Square. The Pope called him “an outstanding model of a true lay apostle and a deeply committed Religious.“ “Today, his spiritual sons, the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, continue his mission. It is a mission which he described in this simple and clear intention: ‘trusting in God's help, I hope to be able to educate these boys to be good Catholics and good citizens.' "
Blessed Edmund Rice was beatified after the Church recognized a medical miracle that was the result of people praying to the founder for his intercession with God. The miracle was a patient’s recovery from a terminal medical condition that doctors could not explain. With beatification, Edmund Rice was declared a "blessed" member of the Church.
The Congregation of Christian Brothers believes that its greatest resources are the minds and hearts of our children. They believe the greatest investment we can make, as a society, is to provide our children with strong, value-centered educations, allowing them to grow into healthy citizens who will contribute positively to society. The Congregation of Christian Brothers has successfully provided this form of education for over 200 years in 250 schools and colleges throughout the world.
In addition to Catholic Memorial School the charism of Blessed Edmund Rice influences another school in New England, Bishop Hendricken high school in Warwick, Rhode Island. Edmund Rice Christian Brothers also operate educational institutions in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, California, Illinois, Michigan, Hawaii, and British Columbia. They also support missionary efforts in Lima, Peru and Cochabamba, Bolivia.