Yes, there were more than a few elders inside St. Clement of Rome Church celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Legion of Mary earlier this month, but then again, there were many younger faces present who appreciate the Catholic lay organization’s mission to advance in personal holiness and evangelize others.
“It means being a soldier for Mary and trying to spread the word about her Son,” said Stephanie Saul, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Orleans. “It’s important. There’s so much in the world today getting rid of God. You can’t talk about religion or God anymore.”
Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre, who celebrated the anniversary Mass Sept. 10, said the occasion was an appropriate time to thank God for the Legion’s 90 years – it was established on Sept. 7, 1921 in Dublin, Ireland – and “for all those who in the past have proclaimed the Gospel of Christ and called people to remember the important role that the spiritual works of mercy play in our lives.”
“It is to Christ that we give honor, and we are inspired by Mary, his Mother, who was that perfect disciple of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Fabre said. “We dedicate ourselves to going forward to serve the Lord completely, as did Mary.”
Bishop Fabre acknowledged there is “a thirst in our world today” for Christ.
“The lives of so many are filled with so many activities,” he said. “The clarion call of the Legion of Mary today is to remind each of us that our lives must be rooted in Jesus Christ.”
Since Hurricane Katrina, the Legion of Mary council in the Archdiocese of New Orleans has been elevated to the status of Regia, which encompasses the state of Louisiana, said George Hernandez, Legion president. He said 17 parishes have active Legion of Mary groups (praesidiae), and two are in formation. There are 59 praesidiae in the state.
“We are all about evangelizing,” Hernandez said. “Our motto is to save souls. We assist pastors in the spiritual works of mercy.”
The seven spiritual works of mercy are to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
With 15 million members across the world, the Legion of Mary is the largest Catholic lay organization in the world. It has been active in the archdiocese for more than 60 years.
“It’s been a great focus in my life,” said Dagmar Foley, a Holy Rosary parishioner who has been a member for more than 50 years. “It has given me a real insight into Mariology that I didn’t have before. That’s been profound. It’s also helped me in evangelizing. I try to make others think about the advantages they have in having recourse to God.”
Legion members commit themselves to reciting the rosary and the Legion prayer (tessera) daily, as well as two hours a week performing spiritual works of mercy, such as bringing Communion to shut-ins or those in the hospital. There are also weekly meetings.
“It’s fulfilled my desire to work for the Lord and grow in my spiritual life,” Hernandez said. “People have come back to the faith through it. Sometimes the Legion’s works are not recognized because the spiritual works are subtle.”
For more information on the Legion of Mary, call 456-2266 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.