Tuesday 20 November 2018

End of era for Christian Brothers

Christian Brothers at a ceremony in Dublin Castle yesterday when the congregation’s 96 schools were handed over to the new Edmund Rice Schools Trust. Photo: TOM BURKE
Christian Brothers at a ceremony in Dublin Castle yesterday when the congregation’s 96 schools were handed over to the new Edmund Rice Schools Trust. Photo: TOM BURKE

John Walshe Education Editor

Fewer than 10 Christian Brothers are now teaching in Irish schools -- and soon there will be none.

It's a far cry from the mid- 1960s when more than 1,000 Brothers worked in the schools. And there was no shortage of new recruits to take over once a Brother retired.

But it's been years since anybody joined the congregation in Ireland. Now the only new entrants are found in India, Africa and further afield.

Yesterday many of the remaining and ageing Brothers in Ireland attended a historic event in Dublin Castle.

After two centuries of active involvement, the Christian Brothers trustees formally handed on its network of 96 schools in the Republic to the newly established Edmund Rice Schools Trust. The lay trust will have responsibility for the educational ethos of 35,000 students, as well as ownership and management of the schools in the network from September.

There were reminders during the ceremony of how the Brothers had brought education to countless thousands of young people who might otherwise never have had a chance to avail of it, and how they had helped shape Irish society.

Abuse

But outside, a small group of abuse victims handed out leaflets to remind people how some Brothers strayed from their founder Edmund Rice's exhortation to be "Catholic and Celtic, to God and Ireland true".

At the handing-on ceremony, Brother Kevin Mullan, Christian Brothers Trustees, said that in the days of Edmund Rice it was almost always by invitation from a bishop that the Brothers came and set up schools in a diocese.

"And it is now by decree of the Irish Bishops' Conference that the Brothers are passing on responsibility for Catholic education to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust".

Bishop Leo O'Reilly said the Catholic Education Service, which would be set up shortly as an agency of the Bishops' Conference, would support the trust in its work and offer all the services it could.

Chief executive of the trust is Gerry Bennett, who will work closely with the trust company's members and directors under their chairman Pat Diggins.

The other members and directors are Mr Justice Peter Kelly; Dr Danny O'Hare; Pat Cox, former MEP; Dr Fiachra Long; Prof Eunice McCarthy; Patricia McCrossan; Bro Michael Murray; Carmel Naughton; Pat O'Neill, Helen O Murchu, William Pat Hallahan, Catherine McDonagh; Bro Mark McDonnell and Gerard Rowley.

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