In 1802, Edmund Rice was a rich merchant in Waterford living in comfortable circumstances. But he was conscious of the hardship suffered by poorer people.
Realising the effects deprivation had especially on the young people of the city he responded to their needs.
Following the death of his young wife Mary and having cared for his disabled daughter (also Mary) he gave up the comforts of wealth and established a school in a converted stable.
A few companions joined him in the work. They lived in the loft above the classroom praying together, sharing their lives and possessions in mutual support as a community.
In 1808, following the example of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters, Edmund and his companions took vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, and devoted themselves to the education of poor boys. At this time they were known as the Society of the Presentation.
Nano Nagle, a pioneer in the provision of free education to the youth of the city of Cork, founded the Presentation Sisters in 1775.
As Presentation Brothers we have a special devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus. We honour Mary in her presentation of her own life to God and in her presentation of Jesus to the world
Edmund Rice’s founding charism gave birth to two congregations, the Congregation of Christian Brothers and the Congregation of Presentation Brothers.
In the early days, when Edmund first began to attract followers to his way of life, they formed themselves into a small group of companions. They lived together in community, and began to follow an adaptation of the Presentation Sisters’ Rule. The Holy See had already approved of this Rule when Edmund and his followers began to use their adaptation of it in 1809 to guide their first faltering steps along the path of religious life.
The granting of the Apostolic Brief in 1820, allowed the infant Congregation to become an Apostolic Institute - a defining moment for all of the early brothers. The majority accepted the Brief and went on to become the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Today there are Christian Brothers in 17 different countries.
A few Brothers, notably Michael Augustine Riordan, continued to live by the Presentation Rule. They continued as the Presentation Brothers and became an Apostolic Institute in 1889.
Like the Christian Brothers the Presentation Brothers have followed the missionary example of the great Irish missionaries, Brendan and Colmcille responding as they believe Edmund Rice would to different needs as they encounter them in different regions and different circumstances.
West Indies 1946
Throughout the two hundred years since the Congregation was founded, membership was predominantly Irish. The Brothers relied to a great extent on vocations from Ireland for the development of the Congregation overseas.
The number of Irish Brothers is now decreasing while there is an increase in the membership from other countries. At present there are Brothers from Ireland, Ghana, Canada, the United States, Trinidad, Grenada, Nigeria, Liberia, England and Pakistan.
The policy of the Brothers is ‘to do nothing on our own that we can do collaboratively’ (Gen. Chapter Statement ’99). This is expressed in the many lay groups with whom the Brothers share their vision and mission as well as the collaboration with the Christian Brothers and Presentation Sisters in what has become known as the 'Nagle-Rice Family'.
From very humble beginnings in Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century the vision of Nano Nagle and Edmund Rice has grown and is being lived throughout the world in new and dynamic ways at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
At the start of the third millennium the followers of Nano Nagle and Edmund Rice Family are again working in close collaboration.
The spirit of partnership between the Presentation Sisters, Presentation Brothers, the Christian Brothers is in evidence in joint programs in the areas of Vocations, renewal programs, retirement courses.
Collaboration is much in evidence in programmes such as SHARE, CLEO, ERA, CARE and Communio Edmund Rice.
People inspired by the vision of Nano and Edmund are today living out in a new way what had its humble beginnings in Ireland towards the end of the eighteenth century.
The Presentation Brothers now work with the Christian Brothers in Edmund Rice International at the United Nations in Geneva.