Presentation Brothers

Presentation Brothers crest
Badge and motto of the Presentation Brothers

Congregation of Presentation Brothers — Irish Catholic teaching order, founded in 1808, by Blessed Edmund Rice (who was also founder of the more famous Irish Christian Brothers). It was a fairly small order, and somewhat "select". By 1911 it had branches throughout Ireland, and had spread to England and Canada where the Brothers conducted colleges, primary schools, industrial schools, and orphanages.

Membership was predominantly Irish.

From 1902 to 2006 the Brothers ran a boys' school, Presentation College, in Glasthule, County Dublin. In the novel it's the school that Mr Mack's son Jim attends.

Edmund Rice statue
Statue of Blessed Edmund Rice,
erected 1951 in his hometown of Callan, Waterford

As opposed to the Christian Brothers (whom Joyce in Portrait characterizes as teaching "Paddy Stink and Mickey Mud"), the Presentation Brothers catered more for boys from the middle-classes, albeit from the lower end of the scale. Rugby was frequently played – in preferance to the more "native" sports of hurling and Gaelic football, which the Christian Brothers favoured. (Many recent Irish rugby stars were educated at a "Pres" school.) The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911 reports "Classes are taught in connection with the Intermediate Education Board and Technical Department. Students are prepared for the Civil Service as well as for the National University."

Although the Presentation Brothers early established schools outside Ireland – in England, the US and Canada – missionary activity in what now would be called the Third World did not begin until the 1940s, and in Africa not until the late 1960s.
Presentation of Mary
Meister des Marienlebens, "Presentation of Mary", c1460

"Presentation" refers to the "Presentation of Mary in the Temple" when the Virgin Mary, according to Catholic tradition, presented her life to God. "In the same way the Brothers try to present Jesus to the world in which they live".

Brother — "Brother" is the usual term for a member of a lay teaching order, such as Presentation. Although Brothers do take vows and live in community, they remain laymen – i.e. they are not priests.

"The main difference is that a priest is ordained. A brother is not. A priest, therefore, celebrates the sacraments (Mass, Confession, etc.) whereas a brother's work focuses on serving God and His people in other ways ... A Presentation Brother takes three vows: celibacy, poverty and obedience".
Group photo of Irish Christian Brothers
Brothers, in this case Irish Christian Brothers, in collars and soutanes

In Ireland, Brothers were recruited mostly from amongst the younger sons of small farmers (priests coming more usually from the stronger farms). They were genuinely respected ("fine upstanding fellows") and their famed tempers were widely indulged ("they have not the consolation of the Mass"). However, the suspicion prevailed that they were a type of "failed priest":

"The most common misperception of a brother is that he is simply one who is 'a step away from priesthood', or worse one who 'didn't quite make it to the priesthood'."

Their habit until recently was similar to a priest's – clerical collar and soutane, the soutane being exchanged for a dark suit when attending the local public house.