In many ways Edmund Rice was an extraordinary man. Yet, in many ways he was just an ordinary man. This apparent contradiction is not as confusing as it may seem. He grew up in a relatively well-off Catholic family in County Kilkenny Ireland, received a limited education before joining his uncle’s business in Waterford, providing supplies for ships and for the British Navy and Army.
Edmund was very successful in business and became very wealthy as did many of his social class. He married Mary Elliot, sadly she died not long after their daughter, Mary, was born. Mary was raised by Edmund and his step-sister, Joan, who became his housekeeper. In his time of grief and the turmoil of these circumstances, his commitment to his faith developed to the stage where he considered entering religious life. In many ways, his life was similar to many young men growing up in the back end of the eighteenth century.
The change came for Edmund when he saw young boys living in the streets of Waterford. Challenged by the seemingly hopeless future that they faced, he decided that he needed to do something about the apparent inevitability of their future. He decided that he needed to liberate them from the cycle of despair that he saw them in. For Edmund, the best way to break this cycle was not to choose the common and perhaps the easiest option and to give them a handout, rather he gave them the means to control their own destiny – he gave them an education. He believed that the power of an education gave the young boys the means to break open the ceiling that seemed to sit above their lives and to open up the endless possibilities that an education can provide.
Edmund’s simple plan was extraordinary in the context of the immediate impact that he was to have on the lives of the young Catholic boys he reached out to and it was extraordinary in the impact that it would have to create a momentum that saw this ‘liberating education’ become the cornerstone of a wave of action that rippled across the globe and today is the essence of the hopes that the Christian Brothers and Edmund Rice Education Australia hold for their education endeavours.
My suspicion is that the idea of an education liberating a child’s future is not a new concept for most of you as parents of young children. Whilst the actual phrase liberating education might not be the words that you may use, I suspect that as parents, your decisions about choosing a school for your children was about trying to open a future full of promises for them. The fact that you have chosen Ambrose Treacy College as a journey for your sons has meant that you have been willing to make financial sacrifices to achieve this. I know that as a family we made similar decisions for our daughters and prioritised a Catholic education for them at St Rita’s College in Clayfield. Achieving a good academic education was certainly a factor for us, but equally we saw St Rita’s as a school that would assist us as parents to support the importance we have for the values we believe in and the values we wanted to be a part of our daughters’ lives. We valued an education and not just a qualification.
The reality for many of us is we are lucky to be in a position that we can choose the education of our choice. We can prioritise our finances, make sacrifices and provide our children with the kind of education we desire for them. Sadly not all families are able to make this choice. Schools like Ambrose Treacy College and St Rita’s College are for many families beyond their reach. One of our callings as a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition is to be aware that the education that we value at ATC should not be an exclusive privilege to those that have the option of sending their son to the College so that they can have more opportunities into the future. The reality is that we are called to try and support families whose circumstances have taken a turn for the worst through sadness, financial circumstances or simply bad luck.
Here at ATC we are committed to being authentic in our endeavours to be a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition. Just as Edmund saw an education as a means to liberate the young boys of the docks of Waterford and create a future full of hope for them, today we seek to provide all our students with a future full of hope through the education they receive with us. The reality that we understand is that the financial situation that many families have is not the same. There are families who can prioritise an education like we provide at ATC and for some families this is not possible. Here at ATC we have taken the decision to see what options we have to emulate what Edmund Rice did over 200 hundred years ago. We are trying to reach out to some families who do not have the financial means to choose a Catholic education for their sons.
To try and achieve this the College has created a Foundation that will aim to raise money to support this endeavour. This Edmund Rice Foundation has at its core the aim to raise funds that will enable the College to financially ‘afford’ this dream of providing a quality Catholic education to a broader number of families. The Foundation will aim to be the means for us to give an authentic expression of Edmund Rice’s charism.
Our hope with launching this Foundation is to invite current families, past families, old boys of Nudgee Junior, friends of the College community and businesses who have the financial capacity to join us on this journey. As a registered Foundation, any donation made will attract a tax deductibility that hopefully will support the generosity of our community.
The Foundation has been set up with a Board who will oversee the direction of our endeavours. I am pleased to announce Luke Ingham-Myers, an Old Boy of Nudgee Junior and a former parent of the College as the inaugural Chair of the ATC Edmund Rice Foundation. Luke’s family has had a long relationship with the College and I am thrilled that Luke has committed to this important endeavour. I am also pleased to announce the following Directors who will make up the inaugural Foundation Board – Suzanne Stark, Caitlin O’Loan, Illena Copley, Nicholas Marchesi, Simon Porter, Peter Chapman, and Nick Camphin. I have been energised by the commitment from the Directors and I look forward to working with them as we try and make Edmund Rice’s dream come alive in our own context today.
The first major event that the Foundation will hold is a launch on Saturday August 12 at the College. As the first major event we are looking to connect our own current community with the long history that Nudgee Junior College enjoyed for 76 years before our recent change to Ambrose Treacy College. In many ways we hope that this first Foundation event will also act as the first major Nudgee Junior Old Boys reunion to be held. I would seek everyone’s support to help us to reach out and contact as many Nudgee Junior old boys as we can.
Today we launch the ATC Edmund Rice Foundation website that will enable us to communicate with both our current ATC community and our numerous Nudgee Junior College old boys. Whilst we hope that we can ask our current community to spread this news via word of mouth, I would also seek your help to join us in our social media mediums and share our Foundation posts on Facebook and the like. A Nudgee Junior Old boys register is open on the website and we would like to connect with as many old boys as we can in this project. Please click here to access the Foundation website.
Finally I would urge you to consider financially supporting the College in this important endeavour. Further details will be shared in the upcoming weeks. I would also seek your assistance to help us connect with as many Nudgee Junior Old Boys as we can – please share this news with any NJC old boys you may know and share our Facebook posts through your networks so we can reach as far as possible. Just as Edmund Rice created new dreams and opportunities for the young uneducated boys of Waterford, we hope to afford some families these same dreams and opportunities. How successful we are will depend on how many people we invite to join us on this journey.
Ambrose Treacy College is proudly a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition and as a school community it is formed around a rich Catholic faith and tradition. As a school community we have numerous opportunities to gather as a community around academic, social, cultural and sporting events and celebrations. A few years back in our deliberations we looked and saw a lack of opportunity for our community to gather to celebrate our Catholic faith. In response we introduced a community mass on one Saturday evening each term. The Community Masses are celebrated in the College Chapel commencing at 5.30pm. These ‘low key’ Masses are a more casual gathering with boys in casual dress. The occasion can serve a different purpose for all families and one I am particularly conscious of, is the opportunity for families who may have disconnected from a regular contact with their local parish, and this gives a gentle opportunity for the family to reconnect with their faith. Our hope will never be to replace Parish Masses and celebrations but rather an opportunity for our community to gather as a prayerful community once a term. This Saturday we will celebrate a Community Mass in the College Chapel at 5.30pm and it would be wonderful to see you join us.
Over the weekend it was wonderful to hear the news of the arrival of a healthy daughter for Bernard and Jess Wong. Amalia arrived on Saturday morning and mum and daughter are both going really well. We wish the Wong family all the best on their new journey.
With best wishes,