Four Lessons from Irish-born Legion of Mary Pioneer in East and Central Africa

Students in process with the photo of Venerable Edel Quinn during the May 13 event at St. Mary’s Msongari School grounds in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: ACI Africa

Her love for God, for the person of Jesus Christ, for neighbor, and her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary are lessons that members of the Legion of Mary and other Catholics can learn from Venerable Edel Quinn, the pioneer, in East and Central Africa, of the lay apostolic association of Catholics that is rooted in Marian spirituality, a Catholic Bishop in Kenya has said.

In his Saturday, May 13 homily during the planned celebration of the 79th death anniversary of Venerable Edel Quinn, Bishop George Muthaka of Kenya’s Catholic Diocese of Garissa also reflected on the 106th anniversary since the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal.

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Bishop Muthaka described legionaries as an “army under the guidance of Mother Mary” during the event that was held at St. Mary’s Msongari School grounds in Nairobi, some meters from where Venerable Edel Quinn was buried in 1944

Venerable Edel Quinn loved God, sought to do His will


Bishop Muthaka said that Venerable Edel Quinn's love for God was seen in the fact that she traveled to Kenya in 1936 to pioneer the Legion of Mary on the African continent, despite being diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Credit: ACI Africa

“Edel Quinn strived in her life to do the will of God despite her failing health,” Bishop Muthaka said about the native of Kanturk, Co. Cork in Ireland, who was appointed Legion of Mary Envoy to East Africa, and mandated to oversee the establishment of the association in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Mauritius. 

He added, “She did not allow anything to hinder her from doing God’s work.”

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The Kenyan member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap.) urged members of the Legion of Mary to emulate Venerable Edel Quinn, saying, “Always seek to do the will of God in our lives despite the obstacles that we may come across.”

Venerable Edel Quinn loved Jesus Christ, “great devotion to the Eucharist”

Bishop Muthaka said that Venerable Edel Quinn's love for Jesus was seen through her “great devotion to the Eucharist” and daily participation in Holy Mass.

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“We are reminded as legionaries to have a great love for Jesus Christ. This can be done through having great respect for the Eucharist by attending daily Mass and going for adoration,” he said during the event that had representatives of legionaries from other Eastern African nations, including Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda in attendance.


Bishop Muthaka said, “If we can all believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, our churches could always be filled.”

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The Catholic Church leader said he found it regrettable that some Christians fail to fully partake in the Eucharist in which Jesus is actually present, citing reasons such as not going for confession or being in marriages that have not been solemnized in Church.

Venerable Edel Quinn loved her neighbors

“As legionaries, our duty is not just devotion to Mother Mary, praying rosary and going to pilgrimage,” Bishop Muthaka said, and added, “Our devotion has to translate to the action of loving our neighbors; this involves visiting the prisoners, and the elderly”.

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Our duty, he continued, “is to do apostolate to the needy. We have to bring our family members, friends, and those who have left the church back to Christ.”

“A great love for Mary”

“Venerable Edel Quinn had a great love for Mary,” Bishop Muthaka said, adding, “This explains why she traveled from Ireland to this place to make the Legion of Mary known.”

The Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Garissa Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in May last year refuted claims that the Blessed Virgin Mary is adored in the Catholic church.

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Only God is adored, he said, adding, “We honor Mary because God Himself honored her in the beginning by appointing her as His own mother, safeguarding her from original sin.”

If you have real devotion to Mary, the 48-year-old Catholic Bishop said, “it should lead you to Jesus Christ; if it doesn’t, then there is a problem.”

He went on to explain why Mary is an important pillar in the Church, saying, “The way mothers play vital roles in ensuring the wellbeing of our families is the same way Mother Mary understands our challenges and is always interceding for us to her son Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Muthaka continued, “Just like Mary, we need to seek and do the will of God and make it consistent as legionaries.”

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Venerable Edel Quinn died in Nairobi on 12 May 1944 and was laid to rest at St. Austin’s Mission Cemetery.

In 1957, the then Local Ordinary of Nairobi, Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy started off the Diocesan process of Edel Quinn's canonization. Pope John Paul II declared her Venerable on 15 December 1994.

In his homily during the May 13 event, the anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady to three shepherd children (Lucy, 9; Francisco, 8; and Jacinta, 6) in the small village of Fatima in Portugal in 1917 (Feast of Our Lady of Fatima), Bishop Muthaka also reflected on the 106th anniversary of the apparition.

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He said that the message of the Blessed Virgin Mary was about repentance, which he said is still a call for everyone even today.

“The Fatima message was repentance, all of us here are sinners and we therefore need to repent; that is the call for today,” Bishop Muthaka said.

He added, “In all the apparitions of Mary, she did not appear to the Bishops, Priests, Presidents, or the wealthy; she appeared to little children. This shows that we need to be humble because the greatest sin is that of pride.”