CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Legion honours the pioneering inspiration of Frank Duff

HONG KONG (SE): A Mass to mark the 95th anniversary of the foundation of the Legion of Mary was celebrated at St. Francis of Assisi parish, Sham Shui Po, on September 4.

Led by Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing; Father Francis Tam Kam-wing, the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary Hong Kong Comitium; together with a number of spiritual directors from the legion; over 1,000 legionaires attended the celebratory Mass.

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was presented and placed, together with the flag of the legion, before the altar.

Bishop Ha described the legionaires as being dedicated to serving people through the Church, especially in the area of witnessing to God’s love among those who do not know him. He encouraged the gathering to listen intently to the voice of Jesus Christ and do what he wants them to do.

The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong recalled that when Frank Duff founded the first presidium of the Legion of Mary in Ireland on 7 September 1921 as a ministry to the poor of the streets, he faced a lot criticism, as the role of lay people in Church ministry had not been recognised or accepted at that time.

A one-time personal secretary to Michael Collins when he was the chairperson of the provisional government and commander-in-chief of the National Army during the Irish Civil War, as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Duff knew the squalor of Dublin’s streets and the physical and psychological problems that it bred in the people.

In 1916 at the age of 27, he published his first pamphlet, Can We be Saints? in which he expressed the conviction that all, without exception, are called to be saints, and that through Christian faith all persons have available the means necessary to attain such sainthood.

When the Legion was openly honoured by Pope Pius XI, criticism of the movement died down and in 1965, Duff was invited by Pope Paul VI to attend the Second Vatican Council as an input person on the vocation of the laity.

Bishop Ha pointed out that with around 10 million legionaires around the world today, the Legion of Mary is one of the biggest lay organisations in the Church.

He said its spirit of following in the footsteps of the Blessed Virgin Mary has remained unchanged from the beginning, even in these times of great change.

Bishop Ha, who had been a member of the Legion and a spiritual director at various times of his life, said the legionaires carry a heavy workload, so it is difficult to attract young people these days.

However, he stressed that the duties they take up are good spiritual training and a reminder to people to manage their time properly.

Father Tam commented that the Legion of Mary in Hong Kong is going to set up a committee to prepare for the 100th anniversary celebration of the worldwide organisation in 2021.

He explained that the plan is to organise activities that will assist legionaires to reflect on their spirit and mission, as well as to make arrangements for a pilgrimage to Dublin in 2019.

He added that the Legion of Mary will put a worldwide formation team in place to strengthen spiritual reflection among the legionaires, share the updated information from its headquarters and continue the task of translating its handbook into Chinese.

Father Tam said the Legion of Mary has recently focussed on the spiritual formation of people and has been encouraging young people to offer their services through their parishes and schools.

Especially in this Jubilee of Mercy, the legionaires are being encouraged to offer their care through their parishes to the needy by visiting homes for the aged and organising free meals for those who have little.

Winnie Ng Wing-yi, the president of the Hong Kong Comitium, said the number of legionaires has been stable in recent years, but recruiting young people is a challenge, because students need to put more time and effort into their studies.

However, she hopes that the current legionaires can encourage young people to join through their own example and that families will really take up their responsibility in the formation of the young in a serious manner.

Michael Ginn, the president of Curia Rosarii, said the Legion of Mary works on the frontline of evangelisation. While he admitted to having been a Sunday Catholic in the past, he urged young people to think about what they can do in the Church and how they can live out their faith.

At the beginning of this year, the Legion had nearly 2,000 active and 4,000 auxiliary members in Hong Kong. The Comitium has over 10 Chinese-, English- and Korean-speaking curias, each of which supervises over 100 praesidiums.

Members need to attend weekly meetings and be involved in a specific service for at least two hours every week.

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