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The Venerable Edel Quinn

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Charles Quinn from Tuam married Louise Burke Browne from Kilmihil in 1906 and they settled in Kanturk, County Cork. He worked with the National Bank, which was one of the original banks that amalgamated to form the Bank of Ireland Group.

Their eldest daughter, Edel, was born there the following year and her early life was very much influenced by her father’s job.
She was baptised outside Kanturk, received her First Holy Communion in Clonmel and was Confirmed in Enniscorthy, following which the family moved to Tralee. During these years she also spent some holiday time with her aunts in Kilmihil and Tulla.
Eventually, the family moved to Monkstown in Dublin and Edel finished her school with the Loreto Sisters in England.
Here, she determined to join the religious life but when family circumstances changed she returned to Dublin, completed a secretarial course and started work.
A friend invited her to attend a meeting of the newly formed Legion of Mary and she soon joined the organisation. Frank Duff placed her in charge of the Sancta Maria Hostel for prostitutes, where she impressed everybody with her care and devotion to Mary.
By 1932, the family situation had improved so she decided to enter the Poor Clares. However, she was diagnosed with TB and she spent 18 months in a sanatorium in Wicklow.
With no signs of improvement and with the treatment proving a financial burden, she left the sanatorium. She took her prescribed medicine and decided to live her life as best she could.  She returned to work and in her free time resumed her duties with the Legion of Mary
After about five years she joined with a group of friends spending their holidays working for the Legion in Wales, England. In the mid-1930s she joined a group travelling to England and Wales during their holidays, spreading the word of the Legion.
She was so impressed by the need for the Legion in Wales that, on her return, she volunteered to return there, to get a job, settle in and continue to extend the Legion in that area.
Her request was turned down but, after much deliberation because of her health, she was asked, instead, if she would care to go the Africa to establish the movement there. In October 1936 she sailed from London and thus began her great life’s work.
Over the next few years she worked tirelessly, establishing the Legion in Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland, Tanganyika and Mauritius. The work took its toll on her health. She still suffered from TB and spent some time again in a sanatorium, this time in South Africa.
However, she also caught malaria, pleurisy and dysentery. She continued working to the very end until she died in Nairobi in 1944.  She was buried in a cemetery close to another great Irish missionary, Bishop Shanahan.
In 1956 the process for her canonisation was set in train and was formally opened in 1963. In 1994 Pope John Paul II issued a decree declaring her sanctity and giving her the title Venerable.
Venerable Edel Quinn, daughter of Louise Burke Browne from Kilmihil and Legion of Mary envoy to East Africa, was born in Kanturk on September 14, 1907 – 102 years ago this week.
n Michael Torpey

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