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The picture shows a "Lion's foot" Edelweiss flower. Edel was accidently but providently named "Edelweiss" because the Priest who baptised her had bad hearing and thought her father said Edel when he said her name would be Adele. Edelweiss is a German phrase which translated means Noble White. Edel did not like the full name which was shortened to Edel and became a new Irish name for girls.
Venerable Edel Quinn - Heroine of the Lay Apostolate
(Article by Fr. Eamonn Mc Carthy in Pobal Dé paper)
September 14th, 2007 marked the centenary of the birth of Venerable Edel Quinn and celebrations have been taking place around Ireland in the many places associated with her life, not least in our own diocese at the place of her birth in Kanturk, Co. Cork.
The Basilica in Knock, Co. Mayo, was full to overflowing on September 30th where Archbishops Neary of Tuam and Ndingi of Nairobi (Edel died there in 1944) in their words of address to the gathering, enthusiastically praised the powerful witness of our great heroine of the lay apostolate.
Plaques have been unveiled in Edel's honour this year in Kanturk and in Monkstown, Co. Dublin, the places she first and finally lived prior to her 1936 departure for missionary Africa.
Edel Quinn was (and still is) one of Ireland's greatest ambassadors for the Catholic faith. Who would have thought that one frail and sickly Cork-born girl could have such a universal and grace-filled influence?
History records that yet another Archbishop, this time the Papal Inter-nuncio to China in 1946, Antonio Riberi, was equally enthusiastic. He wrote that, without the astonishing success of Edel Quinn's apostolate, it would have been difficult to find the courage to launch the Legion of Mary amidst the adverse and hazardous conditions which afflicted China in the post-war period. Archbishop Riberi was himself expelled by the Communist authorities under the tyrannical rule of Mao Tse Tsung in the early 1950's.
But, such was the courage of the newly enrolled Chinese members of the Legion of Mary of that decade, ordinary lay men and women, that untold numbers of them ended their lives as martyrs rather than deny their recently acquired Catholic faith. Edel is thus not the only heroine of the apostolate. What about you?!
The seeds for this heroic witness were sown in Dublin in 1921 by a 32-year-old Civil Servant, Frank Duff, when, together with a group of 15 women and Fr. Michael Toher, the local curate, they gathered to put themselves at the disposal of the work of the Church under the maternal influence of Our Blessed Lady. They sought out the most difficult tasks, in particular that of rescuing street girls, establishing a Legion-run hostel for their care in 1922.
By the time Edel joined the Legion of Mary, around 1928, there were still only a handful of praesidia (local groups) in existence. At that stage the Legion was all but unknown outside of Ireland's capital city, but Edel applied herself to the work of the hostel and quickly proved her worth.
Even as an older teenager, Edel had always nurtured a deep interior sacramental and prayer life such that even before she was introduced to the spirit and work of the Legion a calling to religious life had begun to develop within her. We know that in September 1927, in a moving letter she had tenderly written to the man who had asked her hand in marriage, that she had already made up her mind to enter the Poor Clare Sisters as soon as family circumstances would allow. Divine Providence willed that neither religious life nor marriage were to be her vocation, however. Shortly before she was due to enter the Order in 1932, Edel was diagnosed with the dreaded illness of her day, tuberculosis.
Far from being the set-back we might expect, Edel's work for souls continued apace. But such were the limitations then put on her apostolic zeal by her family and friends on account of her illness, she humorously complained that it was as if they had her sitting up in a coffin!
Undeterred by her illness, Edel volunteered in 1936 to help spread the good apostolic work of the Legion in Africa. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she felt that she had found her vocation in the heart of the Church, and even the opposition of those who felt that she was too unwell for such exertions was not enough to hold her back. It was even feared that the six-week sea voyage to Kenya would bring about her demise. She told them that she knew well that she was not going on any picnic. In fact, she determined from the outset that she would not be returning home. Animated by a deep faith and a burning desire to share this faith with others, she expressed that love no greater than anyone has, than to lay down ones life for ones friend.
Over the eight remaining years of her life, Edel worked and achieved results beyond her human capacity, facing long and exhausting journeys between mission stations, tropical weather - heat and deluge, language, cultural and colonial barriers, the effects of World War II and the hazards of disease. The success that accompanied her efforts was truly remarkable. She established working groups of native lay people in the task of teaching and spreading the Catholic faith where missionaries before her had completely failed. The Legion of Mary became a boon to the overworked and overstretched priests and sisters, and is, even to this day, a dynamic element of active Church life in many African countries as well as throughout the world.
In spite of also contracting malaria, pleurisy and dysentery on her travels, hundreds of praesidia were established under Edel's tutelage in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and even in far away Mauritius to which she braved the dangerous war time return voyage in 1941. The accumulation of her illnesses and the exhaustion of her endeavours brought an end to her labours in this world on 12th May 1944.
The reading of her life story is an absolute must. In the words of Frank Duff, we must know Edel Quinn and we must make her known.
One of the striking aspects of Edel Quinn is her similarity to St Thérèse of Lisieux, the famous Carmelite nun. St Thérèse is called the Little Flower and Edel was named
Edelweiss after the above little flower. Edel who was born just ten years after St Thérèse died wanted to become an enclosed nun like St Thérèse except that she applied to the Poor Clare Order. Edel was turned down due to ill health caused by the same Tuberculosis disease which had killed St Thérèse. St Thérèse in her tremendous zeal wanted to be a Missionary and Edel in her Legion of Mary zeal became a tremendous Missionary of the Church in Africa. There is a French connection too in the person of Pierre Landrin for if Edel had not become a member of the Legion and then a Legion Envoy to Africa she might have married this French-man Pierre Landrin who had fallen in love with her. Edel had a copy of St Thérèse's autobiography; Story of a Soul which is kept safe in Concilium Headquarters. Frank Duff had great devotion to St Thérèse and perhaps St Thérèse sent Frank Duff and the Legion a new Little Flower in the person of Edel Quinn. Perhaps also if St Thérèse was told she could return to earth as a lay person and was asked what kind of lay person she would like to be she might say a Legion of Mary envoy like Edel so that she could do great Missionary work.
What boundless trust we should have in God's Love. We can never love too much; let us give utterly, and not count the cost. He will respond to our faith in Him. We must do what we can for Him, and rely on Him to give us each day the strength for the work He expects from us.
(Words of life from Edel Quinn, the Apostolate)