Edel Quinn was born in Ireland in 1907 and was known for her natural good looks, sense of fashion, and wide-ranging talents that allowed her to excel in her studies, sports, music, singing, and acting. People were drawn to her attractive personality, transparent sincerity, genuine interest in others, generosity, good humor, and general liveliness. Her desire for religious life led her to refuse a marriage proposal in favor of joining the Poor Clares. However, Edel’s poor health prevented her from actually entering the Poor Clare community.
After her diagnosis of advanced tuberculosis, Edel became involved with the recently founded Legion of Mary and was asked to take charge of the moral rescue and rehabilitation of prostitutes in Dublin. In 1936, she was sent from Dublin to East and Central Africa with the mission of establishing the Legion of Mary in these regions. The challenges she encountered were great but Edel faced every difficulty with steadfast faith and courage. In response to the hesitation and doubt of those around her, Edel always turned to the patronage of Mary and would say “Why can’t we trust Our Lady?” or “Our Lady will see after things.”
For eight years, Edel worked throughout the vast territories committed to her, even though her health was steadily declining. As a result of her efforts, hundreds of Legion groups were founded and thousands of Africans were brought into the Church and the work of evangelization. Edel was known to drive a noisy and dilapidated two-seater car in order to reach the towns and villages to which she traveled. The noise became a welcome sound to many a lonely Mission. The people said, “She brought happiness wherever she went. There was about her an urgency, a conviction that there was so much for her to do and so little time in which to do it.”
Edel’s constant prayer and deep union with God were the source of all her activity. At the center of her life was the Eucharist and she wrote, “What a desolation life would be without the Eucharist.” Mary’s rosary was almost always in her hand and Edel’s devotion to Mary consisted of childlike trust and complete generosity. After her death in Nairobi in 1944 at the age of 36, there were many testimonies of Edel’s holiness. The Vicar General of Mauritius stated, “I want to lay special emphasis on her constant joy; she was always smiling; she never complained; she was always at people’s disposal, never stinting her time.”