As we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers, it is important to reflect on just who our founder was.

Edmund was born into a relatively well-off Catholic family on 1 June 1762 in County Kilkenny, Ireland. He received a limited education before commencing work at his uncle's business in Waterford, providing supplies to ships and the British Navy and Army. The young Edmund swiftly gained a reputation for his commitment to achieving fair outcomes for all, which was a value that would remain important to him throughout his life.

With his career continuing to build his wealth, Edward married a local girl from a wealthy Waterford family, Mary Elliot. They had four happy years together before Mary died not long after giving birth to a daughter, also named Mary, in 1789, leaving Edmund and his step-sister to raise his daughter, who is believed to have lived with disabilities. Struggling with a broken heart for his beloved wife, his faith grew ever-stronger, and he considered becoming a monk.

It was a pivotal point in Edward's spiritual development. Sorrow and suffering moved his heart to pity others. He became acutely aware of the poverty gripping Ireland and the desire for a country liberated from English rule. Wealthy beyond his dreams, his desire to help others and his deep faith prompted one of his good friends, Mary Power, to suggest that he become a missionary in his own town. She reminded him of what Nano Nagle was doing for poor girls in Cork city, and with this inspiration Edmund commenced his mission to provide education for boys living in poverty.

After starting classes in a stable in 1802, within a year he had built a school on the edge of the town. In this new building, with only a handful of helpers, Edmund cared for around 300 students, providing food, clothing and education aimed to break the cycle of proverty and create a solid foundation for careers in business and commerce, as well as a grounding in the Catholic faith.

Edmund's influence continued to grow as his innovative education techniques changed the lives of the poor in Waterford. His following grew too, and in 1820 the Christian Brothers religious order was established as a Congregation as an Apostolic Institute, giving them freedom from the local Bishop, only 12 years after the first Brothers took their vows.

After briefly visiting Australia in 1843, the Christian Brothers first established themselves in Australia in 1868, more than 20 years after Edmund's death. They rapidly grew across the nation, starting their first school in Perth on the corner of St Georges terrace and Victoria Avenue in 1894, before taking over the Fremantle Catholic Boys' School in 1901, which they renamed CBC Fremantle.

More than 150 years after his passing, Edmund was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 6 October 1996, earning him the title Blessed Edmund Rice.

His legacy lives on in the work of Christian Brothers around the globe, and through more than 50 Edmund Rice Education Australia schools across the nation.

His official feast day is 5 May, and is celebrated on different dates by Christian Brothers' schools around the globe at this time of year, honouring his legacy in establishing a world-renowned education system with a focus on the whole person.