There are several associations of lay people in the Church, some of which are many centuries old in Goa, which enable lay people to serve God and humanity and sanctify themselves.
Among these many lay associations, the Legion of Mary occupies a special place in the heart of Mother Mary. September 7 this year is a red-letter day in the life of any legionary marking the centenary of the legion’s existence in the world.
Although due to the global pandemic, the legionaries are currently not meeting and offering their service to the Body of Christ, they continue to pray with and for the Church seeking to glorify God, serve the remembers of the Church and sanctify themselves in the spirit of Mother Mary.
On September 7, the legionaries will join online the Mass celebrated by Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias at 7 pm and will pray the Holy Rosary with families in their homes.
The Legion of Mary was founded by a layperson Br Frank Duff in Dublin-Ireland on September 7, 1921. The objective of the Legion of Mary is the glory of God through the holiness of its members developed by prayers and active cooperation, under ecclesiastical guidance.
We in India and Goa join this global centenary celebration. The Legion of Mary came into our country in Madras in 1931 and then to Goa in 1952, in the village of Assagao through Legion envoy Peter Norman and a local Br Cecil D'Souza.
From there, it blossomed to Mapusa, Panaji, Verna, Cuncolim, Chinchinim, Navelim and manifested a rapid growth. Today, we have three committees, 18 Curiae and around 280 Presidia of Legion in Goa.
Legionaries from Goa are blessed to establish the Legion Presidia in Sindhudurga and Aurangabad dioceses.
Legion of Mary has played a great role in shaping the faith response of the lay faithful in Goa. It has been the nursery that provides us lay leaders in the Church. Several of our legionaries have become priests and religious in the Church.
The Legion has given us catechists, leaders of the small Christian communities and parish pastoral councils. It serves a school of Christian leadership. Besides, in the Parish, the legionaries become a great pastoral arm of the parish priest. They visit the old, sick and lonely people and bring joy to them. They take the church to these people and in a powerful way provide care and service to the lonely and the sick.
Legionaries serve the Church in different capacities animating the Body of Christ. Covid-19 has affected legionary activities. There is a silver lining with it. Legionaries are challenged to deepen their prayers and seek to deepen relations with people that they visit using modern technology of communication like the phone.
This need will increase given the increased migration of the young to Europe, leaving the old people at home. The coming future is not going to make the legion of Mary irrelevant. The need for the apostolic activities of the legion will certainly increase in the days to come.
The Church in Goa joins the legionaries thanking God for the centenary of the Marian way of being Church. The spirit of this celebration is not dampened by the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
The legionaries while taking care of their own health do everything they can to serve others. Reaching out in prayer was the mainstay of a legion during Covid times. There were several plans to mark the great occasion but had to be curtailed due to the pandemic.
Led by a sense of care for the other in the true Marian spirit, there are plans to make a documentary on legionary spirituality and its importance, to reach out to those who do not know about the Legion of Mary.
(The writer is incharge of the Legion of Mary in Goa and parish priest of St Francis Xavier Church, Borim)