Its mission: spiritual development and ‘advancing reign of Christ, through Mary’
By Father Vitalis Onyeama
for the Idaho Catholic Register
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Legion of Mary.
To honor the occasion, the Legion of Mary in the Diocese of Boise looks forward to sharing with Idaho Catholic Register readers the remarkable historical events that have led to the grand centenary year for the Legion of Mary. It is an occasion of joy, celebration, and thanksgiving throughout the year.
The Legion of Mary is a lay apostolic association of Catholics who, with the sanction of the Church and under the powerful leadership of Mary Immaculate, serve the Church and its neighbors on a voluntary basis. With the approval and support of the popes and a great many bishops, priests and religious, as well as the prayers and efforts of Legion members we have grown, by the grace of God, into a global apostolic organization.
A little about our founder Servant of God Frank Duff:
He was born in Dublin on June 7, 1889. He entered civil service at 18. In 1913, at the age of 24, he joined the Society of St. Vincent de Paul where he was led to a deeper commitment to his Catholic faith and a great sensitivity to the needs of the poor and underprivileged.
In 1916, at age 27, Frank Duff wrote and published his first pamphlet, “Can We Be Saints?” In this writing, he expressed one of the strongest convictions of his life; that all, without exception are called to be saints. Also, that through our Catholic faith we have available all the means necessary to attain sainthood. In 1917, Frank Duff became acquainted with St. Louis-Marie de Montfort’s treatise, “True Devotion to Mary,’ a work that changed his life completely. A graduate of Blackrock College, where he distinguished himself as a scholar, Duff was a deeply spiritual man who taught and practiced True Devotion, as explained by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort.
On the evening of Sept. 7, 1921 Frank Duff, Father Michael Toher of the Archdiocese of Dublin, and a group of Catholic women held their first meeting in Dublin. This meeting was to have very beneficial consequences for the mission of the Catholic Church and, in a special way, for millions of members of Christ’s lay faithful who would serve in the Legion and for those who would be served by the legionary apostolate. Many persons outside the Catholic Church would also benefit from the apostolate.
The remarkable Legion of Mary Handbook, written by Servant of God Duff, is filled with solid Mariology that has influenced the lives of thousands. When he was introduced as a lay observer during a plenary session of the Second Vatican Council at St. Peter’s, Servant of God Duff received a standing ovation for his outstanding contribution to the lay apostolate.
From Sept. 7, 1921 until his death on Nov. 7, 1980, Servant of God Duff guided the worldwide expansion of the Legion of Mary with heroic dedication. The Legion has several million members in about 170 countries.
The Legion of Mary continues to be an apostolic organization at the service of the Church, under ecclesiastical guidance. Its twofold purpose is the spiritual development of its members and advancing the reign of Christ through Our Lady.
In our next article, we will share the amazing story of a young frail woman who accepted Frank Duff’s request to be an envoy for the Legion to Africa. As she departs for Africa, Venerable Edel Mary Quinn bids her friends farewell and says, “I won’t be back.”
Father Vitalis, a religious order priest with the Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy, is parochial vicar at St. Mark’s Parish and a chaplain for the Legion of Mary.
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