Iona in Mission: Ireland Reflection

Alyssa Toth, President of the Edmund Rice Society, Class of 2014

From the first day of my Orientation as a freshman, Blessed Edmund Rice has been present in my life throughout my college career. But since the beginning, I did not see the major significance this man truly had until four years later, as a senior, traveling 3,200 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Dublin, Ireland. Where my team and I would spend 10 days so immersed in the life that Edmund Rice so gracefully devoted all of his days to.
As a college that is founded off the mission of Edmund Rice, I found while in Ireland that there is so much more we do not know about the man we so often aspire to be. We just know the basics. Once his wife passed away, he left his daughter who had special needs, with his family so he could carry out this mission he was called to do. He believed very strongly in helping those who are poor and marginalized while also holding strong values in the importance of education. Edmund believed that if he educated those less fortunate, fed them well and gave them shelter that they would soon be able to be sufficient on their own. Taking those three main components and combining them, would allow the greatest success for that individual. Creating a domino effect that would then hopefully better the lives of a few more.
While in Ireland we visited Edmund Rice’s old house, which is now commonly known now as The O’Connell School for boys. This school provides the necessary education for inner city boys that have been kicked out of the school system.  
Our next stop was Waterford, probably the most exciting part of walking in Edmund’s footsteps. Here we walked where Edmund spent most of his time, including his bedroom where he had taken his last breath before passing away on August 29th, 1844. Before heading out, we were able to see and gather around his tomb that lay in the chapel that was later on made in honor of him. As a team, we stood around the coffin, each touching the concrete that encapsulated Edmund. Standing there in that moment, it all rushed to me – which everything Iona thrives on comes from the foundations of one man, and I was standing right in front of him.
If seeing his bedroom where he passed away and his burial ground wasn’t enough. We headed to a town called Callan where we got to see the house that Edmund was born and raised in. With the sun setting behind the mountains in the background, I realized how grateful we all were to have walked in Edmunds shoes for the past 10 days, something he chose to do for a lifetime.
Looking through the eyes of Edmund during my time in Ireland allowed me to see past the fact that he left his daughter behind so he could live out his mission. I saw a man that continues to touch the lives of others, 170 years after his death.
Being the President of the Edmund Rice Society holds more meaning now that I have been to Dublin, living the short mission that Edmund devoted his entire life too.  Reflecting on all that we did as a team one night in our small common area at Marino I humbly spoke about wanting to shift the overall meaning of the Edmund Rice Society on campus. My focus shifted and in that moment, I have never seen a group of 13 people become so passionate about something that has just become drilled in our heads since each of our freshman orientations.
Stepping back on campus after our trip, every little thing made sense. From the Edmund Rice statue we have all seemed to sit on, one point in time for that good orientation picture, to the red doors on the Edmund Rice Chapel – it seemed to have all made sense now. We are the product of The Christian Brothers mission, and it is our duty to carry out the mission of Blessed Edmund Rice.