In Fr. Edmund’s Treasurer’s Office at the Abbey, he used to display a few old framed photos. One was obviously his parents, John Joseph Flynn and Pauline C. Rempe Flynn. There was also a photo of a nun in the old habit standing on the steps of a brick building. “That’s my aunt, Sr. Edmund. I’m named after her”, he told me. When he moved to Carroll Manor in Washington D.C., more photos appeared of his cousins and their children. Family was very important to Edmund W. Flynn.
He was born 13 August, 1928 in Scranton, Pennsylvania and began his education there at Holy Rosary School. During those years growing up, Catholicism was a given but it was also cultivated, in the family, in the parish and in life; music was also a part of that life as well as football and they remained interest throughout Edmund’s life. Some years back when our monastic choir had sung the Rorate coeli during Benediction, Edmund told me about a visit to St. Anselm’s Abbey in Maine; he was college age–I don’t know what he was doing there–and he came into Vespers while the monks were singing the Rorate Ceoli ; it’s an image that combines Catholic piety, alertness to music and, perhaps even football since the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm’s ran a men’s college. Over the years, I suspect that the people Edmund discussed football with were distinct from those with whom he discussed opera. More consistent (again family) was the influence of his older brother Thomas A. Flynn, who had been ordained a priest of the Diocese of Scranton. Fr. Tom would be a regular visitor to the Abbey up to almost a year before his death.
Edmund would go on to major in chemistry at the University of Notre Dame and go on to earn a doctorate in that field. He was then hired by the Mobil Oil Corporation where he worked on nuclear research projects for the government until the age of thirty-one. Then, on 29 June, 1960, then the Feast of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, he entered Holy Cross Abbey. Holy Cross Abbey was not quite ten years old and for those days, and Edmund was an “older vocation” (now-a-days, he’s seem a mere child at that age) when candidates were entering as young as eighteen (for example, Robert Barnes, who’d enter the very next year). But there were other young men in the novitiate closer to his age too. Life was very basic at the Abbey then, with the common dormitory and smaller builders, running on a shoe-string. The monks grew their own vegetables and baled their own hay and drank milk from their own cows, distinctly flavored milk when the cows were pasturing on onion grass. These were the years when over sixty monks lived at Holy Cross and years when superiors were changing more rapidly than normal. Frater Edmund survived that and professed his first vows at the end of his novitiate on January 26, 1963. Three years later he would profess his solemn vows on 29 June, 1966. Both he and Frater Robert were sent to Catholic University in DC to complete the theological studies they had begun in the Abbey–the last of that home-grown variety of Trappist priest. They would both be ordained priest on 19 May, 1970 by Bishop Russell of the Diocese of Richmond; in 1970, there was only one Diocese for the entire State of Virginia, the future Diocese of Arlington not even having been imagined yet.
Thereafter began the unchanging routine of monastic life and Edmund served the community as Treasurer (decades later, he suffered the transition from monastic book keeping to computerized book keeper according to business standards), house manager (I remember as a novice helping him paint window frames at Waterloo House, an antebellum house down by the River that he converted into a hermitage), Vocation Director (he brought me into the community) and cook (some say he cooked more like a chemist than like Julia Child, but we never went hungry). Those years were also enlivened by family visits that his surviving relatives still talk about, when he served as host and the benign uncle-figure or cousin to growing family of a younger generation.
In the meantime, he also served the monastery as occasional confessor and in his later years was available to retreatants from our Guest House as confessor/counselor; no longer able to walk comfortably, a room just off the monastic church was made available for his use to receive guests. He was known as an insightful and gentle confessor. One comment to this website recalled something Fr. Edmund had advised which rang so true to his way of thinking and speaking; “May we have the grace to do the Lord’s will even when it’s something we don’t want to do.” And Edmund ended up living that in his later years. In regard to Fr. Edmund, I often thought of Jesus’ words to Peter in John’s Gospel: “When you were young you bound up your own clothing and went where you wanted. One day someone will bind you and take you where you do not want to go.” And yet he went where he had to go and when he needed more care, he moved to Carroll Manor in 2011. He certainly suffered the trials and insecurities growing limitations and dependence but he could also rise to the occasion, brightening to the presence of visitors. He could also be a positive presence to other residents and the staff there.
Fr. Edmund is survived by his cousins, Elmer J. Nalevanko, Noel Nalevanko, Katie Marquardt and Veronica Zebrowski and a host of friends.