By Theresia Titus
The Christian Brothers community from all over Australia have gathered in Melbourne last month to celebrate 150 years of service to Australian Catholic Education.
The two-day event from 3 to 5 May was attended by 120 people including Congregational Leader Br Hugh O’ Neil at the Treacy Conference Centre.
Three guest speakers were invited to the event, Business Consultant and Executive Coach Deborah Asberry, Retreat Facilitator Br Graham Neist and former Congregational Leader, Br Philip Pinto.
Three brothers and two lay people represented Perth, WA, including Br Peter Thrupp and Br Terry Casey.
“The commemoration in Melbourne was breathtaking,” Br Casey said.
“A new burst of energy was realised and people who were somewhat isolated were thrilled to discover the diversity and potential for establishing relationships and strengthening bonds.”
“I was excited and reassured by the energy and enthusiasm and diversity of the people who attended and the creative potential for the growth of what is now referred to as the Edmund Rice Movement.”
Br Casey explained that the future of the movement has an energy and life of its own.
“There are so many new ministries which have sprung from the charism of Edmund Rice such as Justice Centres, Edmund Rice Camps and Schools, Homework Centres, Refugee Services, all of which faithfully embody what has come to be seen as the underlying characteristics of Edmund’s legacy, presence, compassion and liberation,” he said.
“One significant moment was when all participants were invited to position themselves in a circle to indicate how they saw themselves as contributors to the Movement.”
The commemoration was also celebrated in Broome on 13 June, with a Mass held at Nulungu Chapel with Bishop Christopher Saunders as the main celebrant.
Past and present staff and students of St Mary’s School were also invited for the Broome’s celebration.
The gathering and celebration were organised with a purpose of remembering the arrival of the first Christian Brothers in Australia 150 years ago, acknowledging “the inheritance received from the first Christian Brothers and sharing of passion in the work of Edmund Rice ministry.
It was in 1868 that Br Ambrose Treacy, Br Fursey Bodkin, Br John Barnabas Lynch, and Br Joseph Nolan departed from Ireland and headed to Melbourne for what was the second mission to Australia “to provide Catholic Education to colonial youth”.
Currently, there are 500 Brothers left in the Oceania Province which spans across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Philippines.
Within 30 years of the first arrival, Br Ambrose has managed to establish schools in every state in Australia.
Those schools are now run by Edmund Rice Education Australia, which was established to implement the educational mission of the brothers independently.