18 October 2017
50th Anniversary of the death of Alfie Lambe

  Image

Celebrations to mark 50th Anniversary of death of Legion Envoy,
Alfie Lambe

January 21st last marked the 50th Anniversary of the death of the youngest-ever Legion of Mary Envoy, Tullamore native Alfie Lambe, who worked tirelessly to promote the cause of the Legion for six years throughout South America until his untimely death at just 26 years of age.
Today we mark this special occasion with a report and pictures on the extraordinary life of this remarkable young man, whose cause for Beatification to Sainthood has been underway for a number of years.

Special Report by: Geraldine Grennan

 

Alfie set to poetry
Below is a poem on the life of Alfie Lambe which was composed by Pat Joe Martin, Our Lady of Fatima, Preaesidium Legion of Mary, Tullamore

In June of the year one nine three two
Near Tullamore town, it’s true
A baby was born – his name Alfie Lambe
Who was destined to be a saintly young man.
When he was a boy he liked, it is said,
To pretend to read Mass for the living and dead.

And to school every day he went along
To learn, above all, what’s right and what’s wrong
A Christian Brother one day I’d like to be
He announced with great joy to his family.
But God, in his wisdom, seemed to say no,

I’ve got more important things for you to do.

His big brother, seeing Alfie so sad and so weary
One day asked him to join the Legion of Mary.
He joined, and therein he found his vocation,
And travelled to Dublin, the pride of the nation.

All those who met him no doubt agreed,
This young man was someone special indeed.
He promoted devotion to Mary, our Mother,
With help from his friends in the Legion, and others.
Now Alfie, you see, would not be content
Until he won over a vast Continent
Of souls for the Kingdom of Heaven above
And wherever he went he was welcomed with love.


Patron of the Youth
When Alfie Lambe was assigned to South America as a Legion Envoy he was one of the youngest people of his time – at just 21 years of age - to become a Missionary.
Today, people all over South America pray to Alfie Lambe and he is regarded by many as being the Patron of Youth.
Stories of the good work done by the young man from Ireland abound, and many thousands gather each year on the anniversary of his death, January 21st, 1959, to celebrate the life of the humble missionary who was affectionately known as “El Corderito” (the little lamb).

50th Anniversary Mass
A special Mass to mark the 50th Anniversary of the death of Alfie Lambe took place on Sunday, January 11th last at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Kinnegad. The Chief Celebrant was

Very Rev. Patrick A. Moore, Castlepollard, assisted by Fr. Oliver Skelly, Coole; Fr. Joseph Gallagher, Mullingar (who is a cousin of Alfie Lambe); Monsignor Eamon Marron, Retired P.P. Kinnegad and Fr. Gilroy, P.P. Kinnegad.
Prayers of the Faithful at this special Mass were read by Junior Members of the Legion of Mary in Kinnegad.
One of the items brought to the Altar during the Offertory Procession was the saddle of Alfie’s bicycle which was presented by his sister, Kathleen Brophy.
Fr. Patrick Moore warmly welcomed the big attendance to the Anniverary Mass for Alfie Lambe, especially the patients and their carers from the Nursing Home in Castlepollard.


From humble beginnings
Alphonsus Lambe (known as Alfie) was born on June 24th, 1932, the Feast of St. John the Baptist. He was the youngest of eight children born to the late Timothy and Kate Lambe and the family lived in what is now known as “Alfie Lambe House” on the Arden Road in Tullamore.
Alfie was born in the year of the Eucharistic Congress, and while there was nothing remarkable about the Lambe family they were like many other families of that era, hardworking, loyal and devoted to the practice of their faith.
While not much is known about Alfie’s early years, it is well-documented that he was a delicate child and was prone to fainting attacks. He was also deeply religious, so it came as no surprise to his parents when, at just 13 years of age, he announced that he would like to join the Irish Christian Brothers.

Ill-health forces Alfie to leave Brothers
After begging his parents to allow him to join the Christian Brothers, they finally gave in to his wishes, and Alfie Lambe entered the Noviciate in Dublin on September 8th, 1948 at just 16 years of age. He was given the name Brothers Ignatius, and he told friends and family that the day he joined the Christian Brothers was one of the happiest days of his life.
Being the youngest of a a family of eight, and his mother’s favourite, it was deeply distressing for Alfie’s mother, Kate, to have to part with her son. She accompanied him to Dublin on the train, and he was one of 49 young boys who entered the Christian Brothers Noviciate on September 8th, 1948.
His colleagues in the Christian Brothers were struck by Alfie Lambe’s piety, and his obvious devotion to Our Lady
It was in the Noviciate that Alfie first heard of the Legion of Mary, which had been founded in Dublin by Frank Duff  27 years earlier, and had expanded throughout the world at surprising speed.
While he was extremely happy in the Christian Brothers, Alfie Lambe suffered more and more fainting attacks, and it was after one such attack that a Doctor was consulted. He stated that Alfie was not a sick person, but described him as “frail” and expressed the opinion that it was “very doubtful” that he would be able to stand up to the rigours of religious life. If he were to stay on in the Christian Brothers there would be a grave danger of more serious illness, said the Doctor.
Given that he was so obviously happy in his Congregation, it was felt by the Christian Brothers Superior that it would be too cruel to just send Alfie Lambe away. Therefore, it was decided that he should return to his family in Tullamore for a time to see if he could build up his strength. The Christian Brothers would then be very happy to welcome him back.
Alfie was devastated. For him, this decision was the end of all his hopes and dreams. He returned to his home town of Tullamore and to the bosom of his family with a heavy heart and a profound sense of sadness and loss. To add to the trauma, his father, Timothy, had died shortly before his return home.

The Legion beckons
After living in the shelter of a religious community, the young Alfie Lambe found himself working in the robust environment of  the packing department of Salts Ireland Ltd., (later to become known as Tullamore Yarns) where he spent two years.
He was living at home and while he was outwardly happy, there was a deep sense of loss in his life. He continued to pray and remained completely devoted to Our Lady, and he was overjoyed when his brother, Jack, introduced him to the local Praesidium of the Legion of Mary. Jack Lambe was already an active member of the organization and was involved in home and hospital visitation as well as other Legion activities.
At last, Alfie Lambe had found his true vocation, and he threw himself into Legion work with great gusto!
He regularly cycled to neighbouring towns transporting a portable altar on the back of his bicycle in an effort to spread the Legion message and to increase devotion to Our Lady. He worked tirelessly for the cause of the Legion and eventually this work was to take him back to Dublin again so that he could work full-time for the Central Council of the Legion of Mary.
Over the next three years, Alfie Lambe devoted every minute of his life to the work of the Legion. While Legion members are asked to devote two hours of their spare time each week to some Legion duty, it is a well-documented fact that Alfie Lambe was always on duty and never once shied away from the hard work of spreading devotion to our Lady.
It was this hard work and complete devotion to the cause of the Legion which resulted in his being appointed the youngest-ever Legion Envoy.

From Tullamore to South America!
The eagerness and enthusiasm which Alfie Lambe displayed for his Legion work had not gone unnoticed by his Superiors, so he

was informed on February 11th 1953 that he was to accompany his good friend, Seamus Grace, to South America where he was to take up the position as full-time Envoy of the Legion of Mary.
Like everything he did in his short life, Alfie Lambe prepared meticulously for the task ahead, and began an intense study of the Spanish language. Five months later, on July 15th, both Alfie Lambe and Seamus Grace boarded a plane at Shannon Airport which would initially take them to New York for one week and then onwards to Bogota in Colombia, where they began their work as Legion envoys.
A year later, the young Tullamore man was no longer to work alongside Seamus Grace, but instead he made the journey alone to Equador to begin the tough task of introducing the Legion of Mary to the region. In the preceding months he had made huge strides in learning the Spanish language, and had now reached the point where he was virtually indistinguishable from a native-born South American!
After bidding goodbye to his great friend, Seamus Grace, Alfie Lambe boarded a plane to Quito. The two men were destined never to meet again.

Conquering a Continent
The irrepressible energy of Alfie Lambe amazed all those who witnessed him at work throughout South America. After travelling the length and breadth of Equador and setting up Legion of Mary Praesidia (branches)  all over the country and among every group of people, including the Indians, and in the biggest prison in the capital, Quito, it was time for him to move on to new pastures and to conquer new territory for Our Lady.
One of the greatest honours was bestowed on the young Tullamore man during his time in Equador was an opportunity to address the Bishops’ Conference in Spanish! He was scarely 20 years of age at the time.

The next stop for Alfie Lambe was Bolivia, and from there he moved on to Brazil. From letters which he wrote to Ireland around this time, it is known that the young Envoy worked tirelessly to promote the Legion of Mary. He frequently travelled from one end of the country to the other on public transport which was totally inadequate, stopping only briefly to take hurried meals. He often worked until way past midnight and, while there was very little opposition to the setting up of Legion of Mary branches in either Bolivia or Brazil, there was a shortage of volunteers to do the initial work of getting the branches established.
From Brazil he moved to Paraquay and then back to Equador, Peru, and he returned once again to Argentina before turning his thoughts to the conversion of Russia! He had began learning the Russian language in March 1956.
It was a great disappointment to Alfie Lambe that, after achieving such success in many countries across South America, the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in Argentina, refused persmission for the introduction of the Legion of Mary. However, permission was finally to be granted in 1957 – eight years after Alfie Lambe had first sought it!
Next stop was the smallest South American Republic, Uruquay, but all the while Alfie Lambe’s thoughts were on the huge amount of work which still had to be done in neighbouring Argentina, so he began the gruelling task of commuting between both countries.

Workload takes its toll on Alfie
Despite the fact that he still had much work to do in many countries of South America, Alfie Lambe’s health was beginning to deteriorate during the latter half of 1958 until he became violently ill in December of that year and began to vomit blood.
He was taken to hospital where an x-ray  showed a bleeding ulcer. However, complications soon arose and a strange knot could be felt to the right side of his abdomen. He spent Christmas of 1958 in hospital and an operation was scheduled for January 9th 1959.

Alfie Lambe was diagnosed with lymphosarkoma, a particularly virulent form of cancer which had attached itself to all his vital organs. He died 12 days later, on January 21st, and is buried in the Christian Brothers graveyard in Buenos Aires. He was just 26 years old at the time of his death.

The Cause for Beatification
The first-ever Diocesan Tribunal to take evidence regarding the Canonisation of Alfie Lambe took place in Trim, County Meath in early 1991. The Tribunal was set up by the Bishop of Meath, Bishop Michael Smith, in response to a request from Archbishop Quarracino, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina. The Cause for the Beatification of the young Tullamore-born Legion Envoy was first introduced by the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1978.
Favours attributed to the intercession of Alfie Lambe should be reported to : The Concilium (Central Council), Legion of Mary, Brunswick Street, Dublin 7.
Leaflets with a prayer for his Beatification may also be obtained from the Concilium at the above address.

Tullamore Legion of Mary Praesidium
The Tullamore Legion of Mary Praesidium meets every Tuesday evening at Alfie Lambe House on the Arden Road between 7pm and 8pm. New members are always welcome.

“El Corderito” – the Little Lamb
Throughout South America, Alfie Lambe was affectionately known as “El Corderito,” the English translation of which is “The Little Lamb.”

He got this nickname as a result of the difficulty the Spanish natives had in coming to grips with his surname, Lambe. They were already familiar with his Christian name, as it translates into Alfonso in Spanish. Everywhere he went he was initially addressed as Don Alfonso, until one day he told his fellow Legionaries that his surname was the English word for “cordero.”
“Lamb, aha, cordero”said one of his Legion friends.
From that day on he was known as “El Corderito” the little lamb, and he is still lovingly referred to by this name in many parts of South America today.

copyright: Geraldine Grennan


 

We  thank Geraldine for permission to use this article.

 

.