Ms. Shireen Grootboom, 36 Kennedy Crescent, Ext 21, Chatty, Port Elizabeth 6001; Cell: 073 005 4075.
Since its inception in Dublin in 1921, the Legion of Mary has spread rapidly throughout the world and has been established in every Diocese in South Africa since 1933. The object of the Legion is the sanctification of its Members through prayer and apostolic work in union with Mary under the direction of the Holy Spirit in close cooperation with the hierarchy.
Annual retreats and the yearly gathering of all Legionaries active and auxiliary for the renewal of their commitment on the feast of the Visitation, are always well attended and with the support and guidance of our Spiritual Directors contribute to the essential Spiritual Formation of every Legionary.
The government, spirituality and apostolate is set out in The Handbook, translated by now into well over 80 languages and almost miraculously the entire system is followed identically from the remotest islands to jungle parishes to the most advanced communities – surely a sign of unity and commitment to an organization designed to “do great things for the glory of God and the salvation of souls”.
The Legion apostolate commenced so long before Vatican II found renewed affirmation in the Documents of Vatican II – “The faithful are called upon to engage in the apostolate as individuals in the varying circumstances of their life. They should remember, nevertheless, that man is naturally social and that is has pleased God to unite those who believe in Christ in the People of God. Hence the group apostolate ……. Signifies the communion and unity of the Church in Christ. For this reason the faithful should exercise their apostolate by way of united effort. The group apostolate is highly important also because the apostolate must often be implemented through joint action in both the Church communities and various other spheres. For the associations established to carry on the apostolate in common sustain their members, from them for apostalate and rightly organize and regulate their apostolic work so that better results can be expected than if each member were to act on his own.
In the present circumstances, it is quite necessary that, in the area of lay activity, the united and organized from of the apostolate be strengthened. In fact, only the close pooling of resources is capable of fully achieving all the aims of the modern apostolate and firmly protecting its interests”.
In an inspiring address to a group of Legionaries visiting Rome in 1982, Pope John Paul II referred as “eminently ecclesial the vocation of lay people to be a leaven among the people of God, a Christian inspiration in the modern world and to bring the Priest to the people”. He continued “The Second Vatican Council exhorts all the laity to accept with ready generosity the call to be united ever more intimately to the Lord and to share in the same salvivic mission of the Church, to be it’s living instruments above all where, because of particular conditions of modern society, a reduction in the number of Priests and a constant increase in population it could be more difficult for the Church to be present and active. The area of the lay apostolate today is extraordinarily enlarged and so the commitment of your typical vocations becomes more urgent”. The Holy Father cited the shining examples of the Irish Legionary, Edel Quinn, recently beatified, for het heroic activity, despite her ill health, in bringing the Legion to central Africa and thousands of Legionaries killed in Asia or ending up in work camps.
Our own Diocese has Praesidiae (groups) in a number of Parishes totally committed to the Promise made to the Holy Spirit at the beginning to their Membership to “Take my place in the ranks of the Legion, to venture to promise a faithful service and submit fully to it’s discipline…. To work Your Will, to operate your miracles of grace which will renew the face of the earth”.
A vital component of each Praesidium is the back-up of Axially Members who though not able to undertake active work, give indispensable support through their faithful commitment to the daily recitation of the Legion prayers comprising the Rosary, and Our Lady’s Magnificent – the Catnap or chain recited daily by every Legionary. This faithful praying division is our special channel of the graces Mary obtains for us and those we care for.
Hospital and home visitation, the care and support of Aids patients and their families; updating of the Parish census; support of the lonely and the terminally ill and catechetics, are some of the works undertaken. Special Ministers of the Eucharistic are constantly on duty and young Legionaries rising from Junior to Intermediate level after their Confirmation do effective work among young drug addicts and other troubled youngsters of their peer groups in need of their friendship, understanding and encouragement to uplift themselves.
Specifically for these precious young Legionaries, Vatican II has this message of encouragement: “Young persons exert substantial influence on modern society. There has been a complete change in the circumstances of their lives, their mental attitudes and their relationships with their own families … Happily their natural qualities fit them this active apostolate. As they become more conscious of their own personality, they are impelled by a zet for life and abounding energies to assume their own responsibility. If this zeal is imbued with the spirit of Christ and is inspired by obedience to love for the Shepherds of the Church, it can expected to be very fruitful. They themselves ought to become the prime and direct apostles of youth, exercising the apostolate among themselves and through themselves and reckoning with the social environment in which they live.
For our Junior Legionaries: “Children also have their own apostolic work to do. In there own way they can be true living witnesses to Christ among their communions”.
Looking to the future, our special which would be that young people be encouraged to experience the joy and comradeship that Legion membership brings to each brief weekly Meeting. The Church needs them with their special gifts from the Holy Spirit at their Confirmation- many vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life are reported from Central Africa alone in regular bulletins reporting on the activities of the Legion around the world.