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“Alfie Lambe: Envoy Extraordinare” by Hilde Firtel

A biography of the Legion of Mary envoy the Servant of God Alfie Lambe has been republished.  The original biography of this remarkable son of Tullamore was first published in the original German edition in 1962.

Written in an informal conversational style, the biography brings “Alfie” to life, charting his early days in Tullamore and Marino (where he tested his vocation to be a Christian Brother), his founding of the Legion in seven countries of South America and his early death from stomach cancer. His story is familiar to all legionaries and to his contemporaries, but needs to be more widely known, particularly in his home town.

Reading through the biography, it must be noted that the zeal with which Alfie pursued his mission to bring people to Jesus through Mary is inspirational. Whether asking a Colombian patrona for permission to speak about the Legion to every hotel guest and staff member, or setting up a Conference in Ecuador with permission from the Cardinal Archbishop, or translating the Legion handbook into Russian in order to set up a praesidium in the Soviet Union, or setting up the first Syrian Orthodox praesidium of the Legion of Mary in Argentina, Alfie was indefatigable in his Legion work.

The life of the biographer is no less interesting. Hilde Firtel was born in Vienna of a Jewish family and fled the Third Reich - first to Italy where she converted to Catholicism, and then to England where she joined the Legion of Mary. After the Second World War she worked tirelessly as Legion envoy in the Federal Republic of Germany, dying in Frankfurt at the age of eighty-one, just twenty-two years ago.

By means of a number of black and white photographs in the centre pages, one can put faces to the names in the text. It would have been helpful to have had footnotes, or at least an index at the back of the book.

Minor criticisms aside, this re-printing is most welcome. It may, indeed, spur others to investigate further the life of this extraordinary Envoy. One notes that it took a German to write the biography of an Irishman whose mortal remains lie buried in Argentina. Unfathomable, indeed, are the works of the Lord!

The book costs €3.50 and is available from the International Centre of the Legion of Mary, Dublin (01 872 3153).

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