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Gerry Bennett - Chief Executive - Introduction to EREBB European Congress

Welcome.  Welcome my friends. Welcome to the First European Congress of Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders.  It is wonderful to be here among Edmund Rice Friends.

I would like to offer a special welcome to a number of people who have made an extra special effort to be here; our guests:

Br Julian McDonald, Congregational Leadership Team of the Christian Brothers
Br Edmund Garvey, European Provincial Leader of the Christian Brothers
Dr Aiveen Mullally, A Member of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust
Mr Noel Merrick, Chairperson of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust
Mr John Cooley, Chairperson of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust N.I.
Br Chris Glavey, Member of the European Province Leadership Team of the Christian Brothers
Dr Wayne Tinsey, Executive Director of Edmund Rice Education Australia and International Chairperson of Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders
Fr Peter McVerry, our Guest Speaker

I have been asked to provide a brief background to Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders, which in the time allowed, I will endeavour to do.

In May, 2014, educators representing Edmund Rice education from around the globe gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for a time of discussion and reflection, and established an inclusive international network of Edmund Rice education communities – called Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders.

The week-long meeting in Nairobi in 2014 was an extraordinary experience for all who attended.

Prior to the Congress, we were afforded the opportunity to visit a number of Edmund Rice/Christian Brother projects, for example, the Mary Rice Centre.  I had the opportunity to spend time, with Wayne, and our South American colleagues, in the vast Kibera slum area where three of us were invited to the home of a lady called Batuuli.  Batuuli’s home consisted of one small room with a home-made bed, four chairs and a home-made table, lacking any form of electricity, water or toilet facilities.  Here Batuuli lived with her seven children, two of whom had additional needs. Baluuli chatted to us for over an hour through an interpreter, smiling throughout. Before we left, she prayed for us in her local dialect. She prayed for our teachers and our students, our families and our fellow workers and promised to keep us in her prayers into the future.

Batuuli who had so few material possessions, had so much to give. She taught me a lesson in faith and generosity that day.

What has this lesson got to do with the Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders?

 It’s all about the vision that inspires us.

Inspired by the vision of Blessed Edmund and the reality of life in Nairobi – Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders was born.

The Vision of the new organisation was that it was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, Gospel values and the spirit of Edmund Rice and was and is committed to transformational education for justice and liberation.

The new organisation, which comprises an educational landscape of Edmund Rice/Christian Brother schools from over twenty countries with over 200,000 thousand students, committed itself to 6 priorities:

Developing our Identity
Transformational Education
One Voice for Justice
Effective Communication
Formation for Mission
Inspiring Leadership

There were further Congresses in South Africa in 2015, and in India in 2016, where the objectives of EREBB grew and developed.

An essential understanding in EREBB is that it is a bottom-up organisation, where individuals who join or become part of this organisation are listened to, encouraged, and where their views form part of the process of development and enrichment.

There have been far too many positive developments to relate them here, but I will mention a few.

For example:

EREBB schools share identity resources
Encourage school twinning
Establish forums for communication such as e-news
Support schools to engage in annual Human Rights themes
Appoint Social Justice coordinators in the schools and provide training
Develop an understanding of the practice of Advocacy on very serious issues such as homelessness, climate justice, the rights of refugees

In the European Region we are growing and strengthening the network with meetings in Belfast, Manchester and Dublin.

The EREBB partners have worked collaboratively on in-service for our schools, on continual professional development, on Immersion, locally and globally.

In many ways our focus in the European Region is interaction and networking, and we have had very notable advocacy awareness days, such as those termed “Walk in My Shoes”.

There are two very significant developments. 

The first is the Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders Leadership Certificate, which was developed collaboratively by all the Edmund Rice Regions/Christian Brother Provinces and is an inspirational international online course, developed by the Marino Institute of Education, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust and Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders.  It was developed to support teachers, educators, leaders, and those aspiring to leadership in Edmund Rice schools and communities to become advocates and proponents of inclusive and liberating education.  It is a 20-hour course of self-directed learning – facilitated and moderated by the Marino Institute of Education.  A further course is about to begin in the coming weeks.  There is information on the course, by way of a flyer, available here today.

The second most recent development is the upcoming EREBB International Edmund Rice Leadership Symposium, about which Wayne Tinsey will speak at length tomorrow.  The newly developed programme will enable leaders in the Edmund Rice Movement to come together in community and explore contemporary ways of understanding leadership in the tradition of Edmund Rice. The first such event will be held in Lima, Peru, from 16-28 June 2019.

For now, may I thank the organisers of this Congress, organised collaboratively by the Westcourt Centre, Belfast, Edmund Rice Schools Trust Northern Ireland, Edmund Rice Network England, and the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

I really look forward to your contributions over the course of today and tomorrow.

Friends, you are most welcome. Thank you for your belief in the vision of Edmund Rice.


Gerry Bennett

31 January, 2019

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