Monday, November 10, 2008


Servant of God, Frank Duff

Born 7 June 1889 – Died 7 November 1980

Founded the Legion of Mary

On 7 September 1921

Frank Duff’s Message

There are a couple of basic questions that we need to ask about Frank Duff and the process for the Cause of his beatification.

Why do we want Frank Duff beatified?

What is the reason for spending so much time and energy on the Cause when there are so many other forms of apostolic work that might seem more urgent and necessary? One reason is that the prayer and work involved in the process of beatification is itself a tremendous form of evangelization. We are not simply eulogizing Frank Duff but we wish to spread the message that he taught and lived.

What he stood for is what is important.

One pivotal purpose in the beatification of a man or woman is to make their message heard loudly throughout the Church. We might get some idea why it is good to promote the beatification of men and women from the words of Frank Duff himself.

He writes:

“We must read the lives of the saints. God’s purpose in bringing about the canonization of saints was to provide a headline which would draw us on to goodness and heroism. Saints are the doctrines and practices of holiness made visible. If we frequent their company, we will soon imitate their qualities.”

Evangelization is surely making the teaching of the Gospel and the Christian way of life visible and accessible to as many people as possible.

What are the main elements in his message and spirituality?

Let me stress just one or two points in his message. The first published work of Frank Duff was the pamphlet entitled “Can We Be Saints?” His answer was a resounding Yes.

Everyone, without exception, is made and called to be a saint and the means are readily accessible to all in the everyday living of the Catholic life.

That is their very first job – to try to be a saint. If we are not really trying to be saints then to that extent we are wasting the gift of our lives. It is no good, he used to say, to ask men and women to be good, you have to ask them to be heroic. He founded the Legion of Mary as a school of sanctity.

For nearly all his life, Frank lived in close, daily contact with the men and women who lived in the hostels he founded. He cared for their material needs and tried to ease the profound pain at the heart of their lives. But above all he wanted each one of them to go to Heaven and so he provided them with access to all the means that the Church offers them. Frank looked up to each individual because he saw Christ in them.

I knew Mother Teresa reasonably well during my ten years in India and met her often at various places on my travels. Frank Duff had the same regard and love of the poor that she possessed and above all wanted them to live and die in the state of sanctifying grace.

He wanted everyone, to be authentically holy. In short, he believed with all his mind and heart in what the Second Vatican Council referred to as the universal call to holiness.

For Frank the universal call to holiness necessarily includes the universal call to evangelization or mission. There is endless joy in being an instrument, with God’s grace, in bringing even one soul to Heaven. Frank sought to bring all souls to Heaven or at least as many as possible. I think it could be argued that his desire for the salvation of souls was the deepest thrust in his spirituality.

The salvation of souls dominates the life of every saint. Frank found it difficult to imagine how you could save your own soul without seeking to save the souls of others.

The desire to save souls defines also the reason why he founded the Legion of Mary. He adapted the prayer attributed to St. Francis Xavier for the Conversion of the Whole World as follows:

“O Lord all hearts are in Your hands. You can bend as it pleases You the most obdurate and soften the most hardened. Do that honor this day to the blood, merits, wounds, names and inflamed hearts of Your beloved Son and His most Holy Mother by granting the conversion of the whole world. Nothing less, my God, nothing less, because of Mary, their Mother; because of your might and Your mercy.”

Frank Duff was great in the small things, and heroic in doing the commonplace, and his purpose in al things great and small was his immense desire to love God and to be an instrument with and through Mary and the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls.

Fr. Bede McGregor O.P.

His message is radically rooted in the Gospel and the Tradition of the Church. This is why it is so important.

Frank’s parents

Early Years

Francis Michael Duff was born on 7 June 1889. He was the eldest of seven, two of whom died as children.

He attended both Belvedere and Blackrock Colleges and was a gifted student. However, due to his father’s premature illness, money was in short supply and a university education was no longer an option.

Frank joined the Civil Service taking first place in the entrance examination. He was assigned to the Department of Finance, devised a system of calculus which was subsequently adopted by the Treasury in London. He was a keen cyclist, played tennis and enjoyed a good social life.

He was invited by a colleague to join the St. Vincent de Paul Society and in October 1913 joined at the age of 24.

He was affected by the chasm he saw between the society he moved in and the poverty, hunger and squalor he witnessed.

He attended an enclosed retreat and was impressed by what he heard. Accustomed to reading copiously he started reading more spiritual and theological books about God, and the saints.

Besides the physical needs of the people he encountered, Frank saw that many neglected the practice of the faith and needed encouragement. In 1914, in parallel to this work with the St Vincent de Paul Society, Frank commenced his own personal apostolate visiting tenement houses where he received a kindly welcome.

Proselytism was rife in Dublin at the time. SVP member, Joe Gabbett and some women set up an alternative food center for those in need. Frank involved himself in this work.

Frank joined the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart. In 1915 he joined the Third Order of the Carmelites and made the first of 49 pilgrimages to St Patrick’s Island Lough Derg.

In 1916 he wrote a booklet “Can We Be Saints”, his thesis being “in the heart of every right thinking Catholic, God has implanted the desire to become a saint.” That same year the Easter Rising took place and a turbulent period of history followed by the War of Independence in Ireland from 1917 to 1921.

In 1917 he found a second-hand copy of “True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary” by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the contents of which he found difficult to come to terms with at first. In 1919 he went to Mount Melleray Cistercian Abbey and read a book entitled “The Knowledge of Mary” by Fr. de Consilio, that opened up a new world for him. It gave him a theological knowledge of Our Lady which was assumed in St Louis de Montfort’s book.

Frank Duff served in several Government departments until 1932 when he retired from the Civil Service to give his complete attention to the Legion of Mary, which, after the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, was expanding worldwide.

First Works of the Legion

The first work of the Legion of Mary was the visitation of the South Union Hospital (now incorporated as part of St James’s Hospital), Dublin, to a section of the Hospital frequented by few, if any visitors to patients suffering from cancer.

There was at the time in Dublin an area of ill repute known worldwide as Monto, a no-go area for law and order. In large run-down tenement houses resided many girls who plied the trade of prostitution. Legionaries decided to make a visit to this area and despite initial fears were made welcome by those living there. Twenty-three of the thirty-nine girls agreed to give up that way of life after attending a weekend retreat in the convent of the Sisters if Charity in Baldoyle.

Thanks to the good offices of the then Minister for Local Government, W.T. Cosgrave, a premises was procured in Harcourt Street Dublin, into which the girls moved at the end if the retreat which became known then as Sancta Maria Hostel.

This was followed in 1927 by the Morning Star Hostel for homeless men and by Regina Coeli Hostel in 1928 for mothers and their children and homeless women.

Frank Duff at the Second Vatican Council

In 1965 Frank Duff was invited to the Second Vatican Council and when his presence was announced, the whole assembly of 2500 Bishops broke into spontaneous applause.

Frank Duff had the opportunity to renew several contacts and establish new ones on the Legion’s behalf. While he was in Rome he gave 32 formal talks to different groups of bishops. He also gave a number of interviews to newspaper reporters, wrote several articles and 200 letters.

His greatest experience was his private audience with the Holy Father Pope Paul VI.

His Holiness thanked him for his services to the Church and expressed his appreciation for all that the Legion of Mary had done. Frank Duff assured the Holy Father that the primary ambition of the Legion was to keep in closest union with the Church.

The Council, Frank Duff said, had risen to new heights in regard to Mary in the Church. Referring to the Constitution on the Church “Lumen Gentium” he said “Mary is inseparable from the Catholic Church. You cannot take her out and yet leave the Church intact. It would cease to be the Catholic Church. Her position is primary.” Then he added “In another of its tremendous strokes the Council insists that all apostleship is but an extension of the motherhood of Mary; it is part of her giving of Christ to the world. It follows that nobody can take part in apostleship or persevere in it except with her.”

Cyclist and Photographer

Frank, like most Irish men of his time, used a bicycle to get around. But he also used it to test his own endurance. For instance on Sunday, 31 May 1914, he cycled 155 miles from 8:00 in the morning to 11:20 in the evening. He was then on the eve of his 26th birthday. After his mother’s death in 1951, he almost died himself and took to the road on his bicycle to force air into his lungs. This led him to take up cycling as his preferred holiday option with two major expeditions each year and several minor ones. He came to love the Irish countryside and especially its coastal beauty spots and he would record all worthwhile vistas on his Leica cameras to be revisited on the screen later with audiences small and large. In November 1980, at the age of 90, he planned a cycling weekend which was to take place along the north Dublin coast. His bicycle was ready in the hall downstairs and his packed bag was on the carrier ready for the start next morning. Sadly it was not to be as on the eve of his planned departure, he died.

I met Frank Duff just in the last ten years of his life.

What struck me about him was the interest and care he took with each individual he met. He was a man of wisdom, he could be forthright in manner, he was kind, practical and had a wonderful sense of humor. He was a good listener and a man of real humility. Those qualities were interspersed with a deep prayer and sacramental life.

He was man who shunned publicity. He preferred to remain in the background. An example that comes to mind in at the open-air Mass marking the Golden Jubilee of the setting up of the Legion, he was to be found anonymously among the large congregation present.

One commentator described Frank Duff as a “philosopher, theologian, biblical scholar, possessor of vast knowledge on medicine, science and mathematics and a great communicator – able to express complex ideas in simple terms.” He was to my mind all of those things,

In my opinion, one of the great legacies that Frank Duff left was a realization of the obligations and responsibilities given to each person at Baptism, calling all to evangelization. Through the Legion of Mary he left a workable means of seeing Christ in all, an organization with rules which works on a democratic basis but fully in accordance with the Church, in union with Our Blessed Lady. It works quietly in the 170 or so countries in which it is established to date.

Sile Ni Chochlain, Concilium Legionis Mariae

An avid reader

Frank Duff was a regular reader of the National Geographic and Time magazines. His reading of these magazines and other periodicals kept him well informed about current affairs.

He showed particular interest in reading about the dedication of those who in the interests of science and learning went on assignments to foreign and remote areas to study various aspects of life. The sacrifices and the hardships they endured appealed to his interest in adventure.

He liked to use their example of heroism as an ideal for legionaries who might think of devoting part of their lives to working in some far-flung area of the world in the interest of evangelization. He expressed it as follows in the Legion of Mary Handbook “That Christian commission drastically drives us out to people everywhere ... to those remote … to the forgotten sort … to the dwellers in caves and caravans … to the avoided places … to the icy wastes, to the sun baked desert, to the undiscovered tribe, out into the absolute unknown, to find if there is someone living there, right to the ends of the earth where the rainbow rests!”

This thinking would have influenced his interest in sending out the early Envoys to set up the Legion in lands outside Ireland.

Prayer for the Beatification of the Servant of God Frank Duff

God our Father,

You inspired your servant Frank Duff with a profound insight into the mystery of Your Church, the Body of Christ, and of the place of Mary the Mother of Jesus in this mystery.

In his immense desire to share this insight with others and in filial dependence on Mary he formed her Legion to be a sign of her maternal love for the world and a means of enlisting all her children in the Church's evangelizing work.

We thank you Father for the graces conferred on him and for the benefits accruing to the Church from his courageous and shining faith.

With confidence we beg You that through his intercession you grant the petition we lay before You. ...............

We ask too that if it be in accordance with Your will, the holiness of his life may be acknowledged by the Church for the glory of your Name, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Favors attributed to the intercession of Frank Duff should be reported to:

Legion of Mary,

De Montfort House

Morning Star Avenue

Brunswick Street,

Dublin 7, Ireland


Venerable Edel Quinn

On December 15, 1994, Pope John Paul II declared Edel Quinn “Venerable”

“It is certain that the Servant of God, Edel Mary Quinn, a secular virgin of the Legion of Mary practiced to a heroic degree the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards God and her neighbor and likewise the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude.

Edel Quinn was born on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1907 at Greenane in the parish of Castlemagner near Kanturk, County Cork. Father Greene P.P. Castlemagner baptized Edel on the 18th. Her father, a bank employee, was transferred often. This meant many moves for Edel, her three sisters, and brother; the family finally settled in Monkstown, County Dublin in 1924.

Like the rest of her family, Edel adored sports. An avid rugby supporter, she played tennis and cricket. She loved to cycle, especially at high speeds – and to dance; many who knew her, spoke of her exuberant nature and cheerful outlook.

Edel at 4 years old Edel at boarding school, England

On completing her education in Ireland, she went to boarding school in England for a brief spell. On her return she undertook a commercial course. At age twenty Edel was working as a secretary proving to be most efficient and conscientious. At this time the spiritual side of her life was becoming more dominant. She joined the Legion of Mary in Dublin.

Edel’s destiny was to be linked to the Legion perhaps more than she knew. In 1932 when about to join the poor Clare Convent in Belfast, a contemplative order, it was discovered she had advanced tuberculosis of the lungs. This would eventually end her life. An eighteen-month stay in a sanatorium followed. Towards the end of 1933 she went back to her office job and her beloved Legion. She spent time visiting the sick and the needy.

In 1936, with her health still failing, Edel responded to a call to go as envoy to Africa. Understandably the central council of the Legion was reluctant to agree. “How could this slight, waif-like creature possibly have the stamina required for extensive travel throughout Central Africa?” A determined Edel remarked that she was going in with her eyes open and didn’t want to “go on a picnic”.

In November 1936, she arrived in Mombasa, Kenya. Within 14 days she had set up the first praesidium, Legion group, called “The Immaculate Conception”. Like everything else she had tackled previously, Edel threw herself into fulfilling her role, which was to bring Catholics of all ethnic backgrounds to work together through Our Lady.

Within five months, Edel had founded the first Curia, (a governing council of the Legion for guiding praesidia).

Sheer necessity brought about the purchase of a six year old Ford V8

coupe. When her newly acquired driver proved unreliable, in true Edel fashion she learned to drive. Harrowing journeys, in her “Rolls Royce” as she called it, were all part of the job – “She was utterly undaunted” Frank Duff, the Legion’s founder once said of her, “Just laughed her way through obstacles that would have beaten almost anyone else.”

In the period 1937 – 1940 she introduced the Legion to Uganda, Tanganyika (Tanzania), Nyasaland (Malawi) and Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

She organized the translations and printing of prayers in several different languages and dialects. During her many hospital spells she continued her work through correspondence.

By 1943, the tuberculosis was well advanced and even Edel had to admit she was slowing down considerably. Yet she still continued her travels.

By November 1943, her hard labor had paid off. Hundreds of Legion groups were thriving on African soil thanks to this single-minded Irish woman.

The disease, fought for so long, finally defeated Edel on May 12, 1944. Receiving the last rites at the Convent of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Nairobi, she spoke her last words: “What is happening to me? Is Jesus coming?”

She was 36 years old.

In 1963 the process of her canonization was opened in Nairobi and Dublin. On December 15, 1994 Pope John Paul II solemnly proclaimed her heroic sanctity, declaring her “Venerable”.

President of Ireland Mary McAleese visiting Edel’s grave.

Edel Quinn - Role Model

Edel was an idealist, a quality rare enough in people. We find lots of ambition and materialism, but idealism not so much. Yet deep in every human heart is the desire to emulate those persons with lofty ideals. There is a quotation by John Oxenham (English novelist and Religious Poet) in the Handbook of the Legion of Mary which reads:

“To every man there openeth

A way, and ways and a way.

And the High Soul climbs the High Way

And the Low Soul gropes the Low,

And, in between, in the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

And to every man there openeth

A High Way and a Low,

And every man decideth

The Way his soul shall go.”

She chose the “High Way” and stated “an idealist who does not put his ideal into practice is not worth much.” Edel’s ideals were generated by her strong, unclouded Catholic Faith and her totally unselfish nature. Edel’s ultimate goal was to attain to an eternal loving relationship with God. Her life plan was to get to know Him, the Object of her Desire, to reciprocate His love for her.

Edel was called by God to lead a contemplative life in the midst of intense activity as a family member, a working girl, an active member of the Legion of Mary, as a patient in a sanatorium and finally as an envoy of the Legion of Mary on Africa. Her life plan remained constant. The Church in declaring her Venerable has confirmed that she achieved the ultimate goal.

How inspirational is Edel Quinn for people today? Her mother stated that Edel never knew fear. She was a very strong character with great wisdom and a vibrant sparkling personality. She was courageous, unselfish, compassionate, sensitive, a capable leader and organizer. She was not knocked off course by change of plans or ill health

What guidelines has she got to offer to young people, so many of whom become discouraged and depressed with the prevailing attitude that materialistic success is the only thing worth having. Seeking to escape the pressures they resort to abuse of alcohol, drugs, sex and tragically some end it all by suicide. Let them “tune in” to the source of Edel’s strength and joy. Her strength came from the life of grace, nourished daily. Some spiritual notes found in her possessions give us an insight into this.

“We must prove our love by fidelity to prayer.”

“Meditation each morning for one hour if I have the strength for it.”

“I could never refuse Our Blessed Lady anything I thought she wanted.”

“I could assist at Mass all day long.”

“Without the Eucharist what a desolation life would be.”

"Mary loves Jesus in me, caresses and compassionates Him for all His wounds. But, above all, she speaks her gratitude for the Eucharist, and gives thanks to the Eternal Father for that Gift. Without the Eucharist, what a desolation life would be! "

"We can find Him, at every free moment, on the Altar. Be with Him there. Better than all books! "

"Thank the Trinity over and over again for this Gift."

"Rest in His presence, and my Guardian Angel will adore Him for me. Silence."

"At Mass I united myself to the victim Christ, through Mary’s hands, for the glory of the Trinity, in thanksgiving for everything, and on behalf of souls. At Mass always to have special intention of offering and hearing it on behalf of those who cannot hear it themselves by reason of sickness, distance, work or war. Place this intention in Mary’s hands."

Favors received through the intercession of Venerable Edel Quinn

Out of many favors received and recorded in the International Centre of the Legion of Mary, these are but a few…

Cyst suddenly disappears

I wish to report a favor I received through the Ven. Edel Quinn. A large cyst on my back was very badly infected. My doctor said he would not touch it and told me I would have to go to hospital. I had to wait a week before admission. I prayed to Edel Quinn that week so very hard. One morning when I woke up the cyst was gone. I thank Edel for all her help. (N. Ireland).

Throat Cancer disappears

I wish to inform you of a very interesting fact about Edel Quinn. A friend suffered from a cancer of the throat that was very advanced. In her first visit to the doctor, he said to her: “Madam you will never talk again as long as you live”. On hearing this, a number of us prayed with great faith to Edel Quinn. Still unable to eat after three weeks, she went to receive Holy Communion saying to herself: “Jesus Christ will certainly open the way for food.” Slowly the cancer began to diminish. Today she is perfectly well. She again visited her physician who with great surprise said: “Madam we see no trace of your disease, you are perfectly cured.” Glory to God and to Edel Quinn! (Canada).

Double cure of Arthritis

Last October I was very worried about the use of my right hand which was badly afflicted with arthritis which I also have in my spine. I gave up going to doctors and using medication, as this was useless. At that time I was given a leaflet with the prayer for the Cause of Ven. Edel Quinn, and I stared praying for a cure, if it was God’s will. Now, not only is my hand back to normal, but I notice that the arthritis, in general does not worry me. To me this is nothing short of a miracle and I will continue to pray for her Cause. (Ireland).

Prayer for the Beatification of Venerable Edel Quinn

Eternal Father, I thank you for the grace you gave to your servant, Edel Quinn, of striving to live always in the joy of your presence, for the radiant charity infused into her heart by your Holy Spirit and for the strength she drew from the Bread of Life to labor until death for the glory of Your name in loving dependence on Mary, Mother of the Church.

Confident, O Merciful Father, that her life was pleasing to you, I beg you to grant me, through her intercession, the special favor I now implore (here pause for silent thought of intention) and to make known by miracles the glory she enjoys in Heaven, so that she may be glorified also by your Church on earth, through Christ Our Lord, Amen

We place our petition in the hands of Mary to whom Edel turned in every need.

Hail Mary....

with ecclesiastical approval

When favors are received or petitions granted please ensure they are reported in writing to:

The International Centre Legion of Mary

De Montfort House,

Morning Star Avenue

Brunswick Street

Dublin 7, Ireland

Phone: (353-1) 872-3153, (353-1) 872-5093

Fax: (353-1) 872-6386

Ever on the march for the conquest of souls

His Grace Archbishop Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki of Nairobi (On right of photo) wishes to see Venerable Edel’s prayer in every language and a greater effort made by all to promote her Cause. We all have a role to play in making her way of life known. A heroic life of prayer combined with action!

In May 1944 Edel Quinn was laid to rest in the Missionaries’ Cemetery, Nairobi, Kenya. Sixty years later, Kenya will lead the world commemorating her 60th Anniversary, in the grounds of St. Austin’s Church, Nairobi.

What has happened in the last sixty years?

The Legion of Mary councils Edel helped establish have grown and now mobilize millions into service of the Church. These councils are a fitting memorial to her.

Suffering ill health and encountering many obstacles, all joyfully borne, the cross was to play a major role in Edel’s short life.

“She was so full of mirth and good humor that she was like a sunbeam, shining on everyone who encountered her. She kept the thorns of life for herself; the flower and the fragrance she gave to others. “(Cardinal Leon Suenens)

She accepted God’s will and gave her life to His service in Africa.

What about the Future?

Our hope and prayer is that one day soon Venerable Edel will be canonized. One miracle attributed to her intercession is still required for her Beatification.

Let us take up the challenge of making Edel known the world over and in doing so help continue Edel’s march for the conquest of souls for Christ through Mary.

Reflections on her character outlined by Frank Duff in a booklet entitled “Edel Quinn”

The Mystery of Edel

Frank speaking in Kanturk

Her sensitivity

She had a highly developed sensitive quality and her nature must have thrilled to every one of the natural signals. She loved her family intensely, especially her mother, but she never intended to back to them again. She loved all her set of friends tremendously, but she walked away from them. I think everybody was in tears when her ship, the “Llangibby Castle”, moved out from Tilbury Docks, except the young lady herself. What is the explanation of the mystery? The best explanation I am able to give is this one: that to an extent which is very seldom met with, spiritual motives were in possession of the centre of her being. I might put it more simply and say that The Lord and His Mother were living there in a way that they are not in most of us.

Her natural qualities

In her outward behavior Edel was the most natural of people. She would eat what was put before her, within certain limits. The things which could be acts of self-denial were so guarded from public attention that only a close observer would be led to comment on them. In which case she would insist it was a matter of liking and not of deprivation.

She did not talk much. In a group it was not Edel’s voice which was heard. When this is pointed out to those who knew her well, they are at first incredulous, so much did she make her presence felt in any company. She was not conspicuously silent. She seemed to play her part in conversation while at the same time it was others who were doing the major part of the talking. And very definitely there was an atmosphere of grace and peace about her which softened people. The note of any group where she was would be that of good humor and harmony.

Her Unselfishness

I had the pleasure of listening in to the questioning of her family by Cardinal Leon Suenens. It was a stirring experience. At an early point he asked what was her dominant characteristic as a young child. Without taking even a moment to reflect, her mother answered, “Her unselfishness”. And at once the others chimed in with their comment: “Yes, Edel was completely unselfish”. Then the question came “At what age did that develop in her?” Her mother said: “It was always in her from the time she was a baby!” Which always produced from us the objection: “But that could not be. Babies are at best selfish little articles and they have to learn the better things from the grown up people!” “No, No, No!” almost indignantly: they had never seen a sign of selfishness in her. And that incredible assertion was adhered to. The Carmelites and other Orders in Africa speak of her comings to them as being “angels’ visits”, leaving an overwhelming impression.

This means that eminently holy people regarded it as a spiritual favor to come in contact with her – an astounding evaluation to make of anyone! Everybody who had such a visit from her talks about it.

Her charm

Her charm of manner was supreme, but it went far deeper than the surface. There was nothing of the artificial in her. She attracted people very strongly. In trying to analyze this fact, one is thrown back on the suggestion which Chesterton makes about St. Francis of Assisi: that the secret of the Saint’s power lay in the conviction which people gained that he really was interested in each one of them. I would say that anyone who spoke to Edel Quinn ended up with that same idea. As a consequence they loved her and wanted to do what she asked of them.



Alfie Lambe



Alfie’s successor in the Argentine January 21st is the anniversary of the death of Alphonsus Lambe. Each year on that date all over South America there are large celebrations with thousands of legionaries gathering to honor him, to pray to him and to ask for his intercession. They attend Mass, say the Legion Prayers and go out on to the streets to speak to people. This is repeated several times throughout the day, putting into practice what Alfie taught them.

Alfie was sent by the Concilium in 1953 to develop the Legion of Mary throughout the South American countries. But he didn’t limit himself to setting up groups of the Legion. He did much more because of his burning zeal for souls. He found that a majority of the people were baptized but knew little about their Faith. Many had to be reintroduced to the Christian way of life.

One of the difficulties he encountered were the sects, particularly those sent to South America with the aim of inducing the people to turn their backs on the Catholic Church. By the time Alfie arrived, he saw there was a major job to be done in winning the people back to the Church. He taught legionaries of all walks of life and of all ages that everyone must be invited to join the Legion of Mary.

An example of this was Alfie’s meeting with a young railroad employee, Miguel Mancini. Alfie asked him if he would like to work for Our Blessed Lady. The reply Miguel gave him was that he was baptized but didn’t go to Mass that often. Alfie persisted saying that he hadn’t asked him if he was practicing and re-issued the invitation to work for Our Blessed Lady. Miguel accepted. A month later he became President of his praesidium, later President of the Curia and in due course he was elected President of the Comitium. On completion of his term of office he entered the seminary and is now Rector of one of the largest seminaries in South America.

Alfie taught legionaries how to make everyone an apostle for the Catholic Church. He brought legionaries with him wherever he went and showed them how to engage in apostolic work and how to extend the Legion. He was an example of a legionary always on duty.

Occasionally legionaries would see Alfie in ‘off-duty’ mode, having a cup of coffee in an open air cafe. Street children would approach offering to shine his shoes or sell him a paper. “Come back in 5 minutes” he would say and then he would offer them Legion membership. These young teenagers went on to do apostolic work in the toughest and roughest areas of their cities.

At the time, many of the priests who arrived from Europe were suffering from the ravages of World War II. Despite the after-effects of trauma, illness and incapacity they were invited to become Spiritual Directors and many accepted the invitation. Some doubted that the Legion of Mary could be a vehicle to transform parishes and bring people back to the Faith. Some were opposed to having the Legion established within their boundaries. However, in time those who doubted couldn’t help but be influenced by good reports from neighboring areas where the Legion flourished.

Those who worked with Alfie spoke of the example he gave not only in his spiritual Life but in everything he did. They agreed they never saw him sad or depressed, never saw him lose patience, become flustered or complain. He always had a smile. And he bore those qualities up to his death.

Alfie stayed wherever he was offered accommodation, and more often than not he stayed in student hostels. In those years in South America, students were being influenced by Marxist and Communist doctrines. Idealistic young men, some would abandon their Faith to take up those ideologies. While relaxing in the evenings, Alfie would join in the conversation and speak to them about Catholicism. On one occasion Alfie was threatened by a young man wielding a knife. On another occasion he received a phone call in the early hours threatening death if he went to the University to establish the Legion there. This didn’t stop Alfie.

On yet another occasion while visiting a priest who had just agreed to establish the Legion in his Parish, the priest was called to visit a dying man. Alfie asked to accompany him to the hospital. After a brief visit to his bedside the priest returned saying the man was a Jew. Alfie asked permission to speak with him and some short while later asked the priest to return as the man had a desire to be baptized.

Climate changes from extremely cold to extremely hot are part of life in the countries of South America. Some might have been tempted to train people and allow them to undertake the work. Not so with Alfie. He accompanied the legionaries and showed them how to carry out the work. This is evidenced by work he undertook with a group of seminarians. During their holidays, Alfie offered to teach them the Legion of Mary system and how to undertake the work. A group of 14 of them accompanied Alfie on a 24 hour train journey. He set up the miniature Legion altar he brought with him and they held their first Legion meeting in the carriage. He then assigned them in pairs to go through the carriages and speak to the passengers about the Mass and what devotion to Our Lady means to a Catholic. After two hours they reported back and discussed what they learned. During that journey four Legion meetings and work assignments took place.

Alfie was as much at home the wealthy person as he was with the poor. The wealthy kept to themselves leading a comfortable life style. Alfie took the view that they too had souls to be won for the Church. Those who joined the Legion were assigned to the poor areas donning t-shirts and jeans to do their work. Alfie praised their work but set them the further challenge of visiting the red light area. Not believing such existed in their city, Alfie proved them wrong by taking a taxi and being brought in sequence to ten establishments of ill-repute. The legionaries undertook the challenge and the work in the red light area continues to this day.

Alfie also had a lighter side to his personality. He loved to tell a joke or a funny story often told against himself. He even told of an encounter he had with terrorists who seized him for a couple of hours. When allowed to make a phone call to prove who he was, Alfie phoned the Irish Ambassador who came to vouch for him. Both he and the Ambassador laughed long and hard when re-telling the story.

Alfie did many things during his short life, some we know about, others we do not. In Argentina he started the first praesidium for Orthodox members. He learned the Russian language in the hope of visiting that country. His wish wasn’t granted as he died a short while later. He is buried in the vault of the Christian Brothers in Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. A simple inscription marks his resting place. But the real testimony to his memory lies in his legacy of many hundreds of thousands of legionaries working throughout South America through their membership of the Legion of Mary, for the Church.

Alfie Lambe joined the Legion of Mary in Ireland when almost eighteen years old. Three years later he was one of the youngest of his time to be assigned as a missionary. After six years he was popularly acclaimed by those who knew him closely as a man of holiness, some comparing him to the Little Flower. Bishops and priests consider him to be Argentinean and he is grouped with their other Candidates for Canonization.

People all over South America pray to Alfie Lambe and many see him as a Patron for Youth. Their love for him is seen each year in January when thousands of people gather to celebrate the life of an ordinary Catholic lad who had a zeal for souls and put that into practice.


Michael Ekeng

Michael Eking was a foundation member of the Legion of Mary and the President of the first Praesidium in the entire African continent. This praesidium was started by the Most Rev. Dr. Moynagh, then bishop of Calabar of St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow when he was in charge of the Ifuho Mission, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria. The date was September 7th, 1933 – the 12th anniversary of the Legion’s birth in Dublin. .

Michael Ekeng was Bishop Moynagh's right hand man in the task of extending and perfecting the Legion of Mary in the Calabar diocese. He was described as "a man of God" or more accurately, as a "free man of God", for Michael had tasted the bitter experience of slavery, had bought his freedom by his own industry, and had then found his way into the Catholic Church via Protestantism in which he had been instructed by his former “master”.

Here is a pen-picture of the outstanding zeal of this remarkable African Legionary by one who watched him closely at work, Most Rev. Dr. T. McGettrick, Bishop of Ogoja, Nigeria, writing after Michael’s death in 1958.

“Michael Ekeng's capacity for work was amazing. I have known him to start from Calabar at 1 A.M., travel to Oran 18 miles by canoe, go on from there to a Legion meeting 55 miles away, and after the meeting cycle on 12 miles to the nearest mission, fasting all the time, to receive Holy Communion. He was a fine example of what Bishop Moynagh called "the wonderful effects of the Legion on the legionaries themselves.

Although nothing official has been acknowledged to date, there was talk in Africa of the introduction of Michael's cause for sainthood as well.

During the Holy Year of 1950 Bishop Moynagh sent Michael on a pilgrimage to Rome, and thence to Ireland. Mr. Ekeng addressed the Concilium of the Legion of Mary, attended many Legion functions and took part in a pilgrimage to Lough Derg.

Michael Ekeng never ceased to express gratitude for what the Irish missionaries and the Legion had done for Africa. This appreciation he demonstrated unceasingly by his notable, self-sacrificing work both for the Irish missionaries and the Legion in Calabar. He saw the Legion on Calabar grow to 18 councils and close on to 150 branches.

May this truly apostolic soul, to whom Irish missionaries and the Legion of Mary are indebted for so much, rest in peace and reap the reward of a remarkably fruitful life in the service of his fellow Africans..


Mary Duffy

Mary Duffy joined the Legion in 1925 when there were only four Praesidia in existence. She used to say she “came into the Legion on the crest of an enormous wave of grace”. She was one of a small team who spent weekends and holidays traveling around Ireland and later into Wales setting up praesidia.

Mary had a deep, deep devotion to the Holy Spirit and Our Lady which obviously helped her over come the shock when Mr. Duff asked her to consider going as Legion Envoy to North America. She arrived in New York in 1934 and spent 12 years traveling throughout United States and Canada visiting priests, establishing praesidia and organizing the government of the Legion in that vast territory

In 1946 Mary returned to Dublin and joined a praesidium in Regina Coeli hostel where she worked among the mothers and children for the remainder of her life. Mary was most meticulous about attending the Concilium meeting. She died on 19 August 1997 and was buried on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. A great chapter of Legion history has been closed. May Mary Duffy rest in peace.


Joaquina Lucas

Joaquina joined the Legion of Mary in 1940. She was one of the foundation members of the first praesidium set up in the Hospicio de San Jose, Manila; an orphanage, hospital and home for the aged all combined, run by the Sisters of Charity. Their Spiritual Director was Fr, Manuel Gracia, C.M., the founder of the Legion in the Philippines. All of that first group were university students, among them her friend and later fellow-envoy, Pacita Santos, who was recruited by Joaquina. During the occupation, the Legion grew and expanded. At the end of the war there were 12 curiae in the Manila area.

In 1946, Joaquina was appointed the first Envoy of the Legion of Mary to Latin America, beginning her work in Mexico and then traveling down to South America. She was bi-lingual. Speaking English and Spanish with equal fluency, she covered Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil where she learned to speak Portuguese fluently. In 1953 when Bros. Grace and Lambe arrived in South America as Envoys she met them at Bogotá airport in Colombia and for some months acted as their interpreter and helped them perfect their Spanish until each of the began work in his own assigned territory.

When she had completed her Envoyship in South America, Joaquina came to Dublin and after some months at Legio Headquarters she was appointed Envoy to Portugal. She completed her assignment in Portugal in 1958 and returned home. In 1963 she was again appointed Envoy, this time in Japan, Indonesia and Korea where she remained until 1965. She was one of the longest serving Envoys of the Concilium.

Since her return home to Manila she had taken an active part in the Legion there being especially concerned in many of the Senatus activities.

No doubt Our Lady had a great welcome for her stalwart Legionary and proficient Envoy.


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