History of Mount Sion C.B.S.
The history of Mount Sion CBS is a history of a man Edmund Rice, a place Barrack Street, a community of Christian Brothers, the students of Mount Sion CBS and the wider Waterford community. One could not write the history of our school without writing about our founder Blessed Edmund Rice. In fact 170 years after his death our school still provides the same type of education to boys from this area.
To read about the life of Edmund Rice there are a number of accounts easily accessible. If you wish to borrow any of the following books please contact the school.
- Edmund Rice The Man And His Times by Desmond Rushe.
- A Man For Our Time A Short Life Of Edmund Rice by Donal Blake C.F.C.
- Edmund Ignatius Rice by Patrick B. Jacob, C.F.C
- Edmund Ignatius Rice: A Story Of Compassion by Hurley, D.C
- Edmund Rice by Diare Keogh
- A Tree Is Planted by Nermoyle, M.C
To summarise the life of Edmund Rice:
- Born in Westcort Callan, County Kilkenny June 1762.
- His mother was a very compassionate and caring person and was very kind and generous to the poor, he learned a lot from her.
- His first formal schooling came from ‘An Braíthrín Liath’ (The little grey brother).
- Edmund also attended the local hedge school and was taught by Fr Patrick Grace.
- He arrived in Waterford 1779 aged 17 to work with his uncle Michael. Waterford was an overcrowded city as a result of a famine in 1783. Three thousand to four thousand people a year left Waterford for Newfoundland.
- The Rice business was chandlery; they owned many large warehouses and were suppliers of all merchandise for the shipping trade.
- At a young age he developed a reputation as an honest business man, people trusted him.
- Outside of his business interests, the poor were the chief object of his attention and as a young man Edmund Rice displayed acts of generosity towards them.
- At the age of 23 he married Mary Elliot.
- His uncle Michael left all his property to Edmund.
- When Mary was well advanced with child she was thrown by a horse in an accident and she tragically died.
- The baby called Mary survived but had a disability.
- In an attempt to forget his tragic loss he lavished all his love on the child, put more and more of his energy into his business, and became more charitable.
- In his troubles and difficulties he turned more and more to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He attended mass each day and was a daily recipient of Holy Communion. Edmund also turned more and more to Mary the mother of God.
- He wrote a list of texts from the bible that appealed to him, a common theme was justice and charity to our neighbour.
- He founded many charitable organisations Edmund was a frequent visitor to the Mendicity Institute, Waterford’s ‘debtors’ prison’, where his financial and foods donations and encouraging words were much appreciated.
- Edmund was 40 when he sold all his business interests and opened a school for poor boys in a stable on New Street. These he converted into makeshift classrooms and hired two assistants, to help out with the children in their ‘stable school’. He gave orders for the laying of the foundations of what would be his first permanent monastery and school on land leased at Ballybricken outside the city walls. He began to wind up his considerable business interests. His friends were sceptical, many saw his attempt to educate poor boys as an act of ‘mad folly’. The unstable and erratic boys of the street were not easy pupils. Edmund’s neighbours resented his bringing in apparent thugs and delinquents and complained of the disturbance in their respectable neighbourhood. His two assistants, despite generous salaries, couldn’t cope and left. At the age of 40, with a half-finished monastery and school, Edmund, successful businessman turned schoolmaster, stood alone. ‘Providence is our inheritance’ was to become a favourite watchword of his in later life and certainly, during his initial period, his faith was sorely tested. Nevertheless he persevered in a project that seemed both eccentric and pathetic to many of his business friends.
- This was 13 years after the death of his wife.
- During those 13 years his faith deepened and he slowly came to realise his future was to dedicate his life in the education of poor boys.
- He was to a certain extent following in the footsteps of Nano Nagle and the presentation sisters who had recently arrived in Waterford.
- He was also encouraged and supported by the Bishop Dr Hussey who was anxious for Catholic schools to survive, despite the Penal Laws.
- Over the next 10 years Edmund gathered a small community of likeminded men. He was joined by two men of similar devotion who remained with him; Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn. In June 1802 he commenced to build a Monastery on Barrack Street. Bishop Hussey named the site ’Mount Sion’ as the elevated site reminded him of ‘Mount Zion’ in Jerusalem.
- Near the school, Edmund built a small bake house so that he could give the pupils a daily meal of bread and milk. In a loft over the bake house, tailors were kept busy making clothes for the boys as well as for other poor people .
- The workload of the ‘monks’, as they were called, increased enormously. Up to 150 boys were taught by each monk. In addition night classes were provided for illiterate adults.
- A second school and house was opened in Carrick on suir and before his death in 1844 the Christian Brothers were educating poor boys in most Irish towns.
- In 1820 the congregation of The Christian Brothers received papal approval and Edmund now aged 58 made his final vows and was elected superior general of the congregation.
- Mount Sion remained his base but he travelled the length and breadth of Ireland establishing new schools and promoting Catholic education.
- He died on the 29th of August 1844. He was buried in the community cemetery where a simple cross marks the grave today. In 1944 the remains of Edmund Rive were exhumed and placed in a Mausoleum on the grounds of Mount Sion. The blessed sacrament chapel was opened in August 1979 and his remains were moved from the Mausoleum to this chapel.
- He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on October the 6th 1996 and the remains of blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice are today in the new Edmund Rice chapel at Mount Sion.