Vol 5, No 1, 2005

The Founding of the Irish Christian Brothers: Navigating the Realities through the Myths

Denis McLaughlin


The documentation undertaken for Blessed Edmund Rice's canonisation processes indicate that his motivations in founding his religious congregation (the Irish Christian Brothers) was ignited by a Pastoral Letter of Bishop Thomas Hussey urging Catholics to combat Protestant proselytism of the poor. He is said to have responded by educating boys using a blueprint for girls pioneered by the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle. This "myth" was a dominant theme in pre-canonisation homilies at masses in the Vatican. This paper argues that these motivations cannot be sustained from the historical evidence.