Sandra Johnson (background, right) leads the rosary at the Legion of Mary meeting at St. Christopher in Hobe Sound. (ALEEN STANTON)

Legion of Mary faithful strengthen in Palm Beach diocese, world-wide

STUART  |  St. Andrew Parish in Stuart recently created a Legion of Mary praesidium, making it the 24th parish in the Diocese of Palm Beach to join the growing numbers of the organization. 

Many parishes in the diocese are excited for St. Andrew Catholic Church to join the ranks, especially as the legion approaches its 100th anniversary in 2021. Ruth Bukowski, a member of the Legion of Mary at St. Sebastian Parish in Sebastian, reflected on the spiritual growth St. Andrew Parish members will undergo through the legion. “It really has helped my spirituality grow in reaching out to other people and sharing my faith,” she said. “I give out prayer cards, medals and rosaries wherever I go.”

The Legion of Mary is one of the largest Catholic lay apostolic organizations in the world, with representatives in 170 countries. According to the Legion of Mary’s official website, the organization’s main objective is to “glorify God through the holiness of its members, developed by prayer and active cooperation in Mary’s and the church’s work.” The members participate in the life of the parish through visitation of families and the sick, both in their homes and in hospitals, and through collaboration in every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by the parish. 

The parish level of unit in reference to the Legion of Mary is called a praesidium, which entails a weekly meeting of prayer and discussion. The state of Florida has 15 councils with approximately 150 praesidium, each with the title of “Our Blessed Lady.” 

Holy Family Parish in Port St. Lucie holds the praesidium title of “Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom.” Father Tri Pham, pastor, encouraged the parish’s Legion of Mary members to turn to Mary for guidance. “When you are afraid or troubled, run to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to keep you calm,” he said. “Think of the Blessed Mother holding the Monstrance of Jesus, her son. Pray the rosary. Say one Hail Mary every time you walk by her.”

The apostolic organization was founded Sept. 7, 1921 in Dublin, Ireland, by Frank Duff. At 24, Duff found his vocation in ministering to the poor when he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. That is where he developed a deep spiritual commitment to the Catholic faith and service to the church. Duff’s dedication and leadership to the Legion of Mary continued until his death Nov. 7, 1980, at 91. 

The first American praesidium was formed in 1931, setting into motion a long history of the Legion of Mary in the United States. 

St. Christopher Parish in Hobe Sound, whose praesidium title is of Our Lady of Knock, has a special connection to the legion’s founder in Ireland. Father Aidan Hynes, pastor, said, “I was at the Our Lady of Knock shrine in Ireland where I prayed for the strengthening of the Legion of Mary.”  

Mike Gangloff, legionary president of Holy Family Catholic Church in Port St. Lucie, emphasized the legion’s evangelical work. “We evangelize with prayer no matter what religious affiliation. We go to daily Mass and help our parish by visiting the sick. Our goal is the salvation of souls.”

Sandra Johnson, curia leader of six parishes including St. Christopher Parish and St. Sebastian Parish said, “Our Blessed Mother is brought into the home with a procession. We place the statue of Our Lady on a table with a decorative cover and two candles. Then we pray by invoking the Holy Spirit.”

The cause for beatification has been introduced for three legionaries: The Servant of God, Frank Duff (1889-1980), founder of the legion who attended the Second Vatican Council as a lay observer; Venerable Edel Quinn (1907-1944), legion envoy to East Africa; and the Servant of God, Alfie Lambe (1932-1959), legion envoy to South America.