Edmund was now aged 31 and a millionaire by today’s standards. He eventually decided that he would go to Europe to become a priest. However, he shared his thoughts one day with a friend, Mary Power. She replied with words which would change Edmund’s life:
“So, you are thinking of burying yourself in a monastery on the Continent. Will you leave these poor boys uncared for? Can’t you do something for them?”
Edmund made a resolution that, rather than go abroad to become a priest, he would remain in Ireland and do something for the poor children of the city.
However, he was a layman and there was no model for a priest becoming involved in work of this nature. One hundred years before, a French Priest had founded the De La Salle Brothers but there was nothing like this in the English speaking world.
In addition, these were Penal times and a law passed in 1791 forbade the “establishment of any religious order or society bounded by monastic vows”.
Edmund wrote to Pope Pius VI for advice and the Holy Father encouraged him in his endeavours. He also received support from the local bishops.
In 1797, Bishop Thomas Hurley of Waterford wrote a Pastoral Letter in which he discouraged Catholic parents from sending their children to “Bible Schools” established with the purpose of training children to become Protestant.