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Legion of Mary
Group serves parish and community for half century

By MICHELLE DELANEY, Globe staff reporter

It’s not often that a group can say they’ve held over 2,450 meetings and have been going strong for 50 years, but the Legion of Mary in Carroll can.

“I can’t believe it’s gone on that long,” said Florence Oswald, president of the Carroll Legion of Mary presidium.

The Legion of Mary is a lay association of Catholics who serve the church and their neighbors. Their mission is to help spread devotion to the church through the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Timothy Dolan of New York Cardinal spoke on the importance of the Legion of Mary saying, “I always think that if a parish has the Legion of Mary and the St. Vincent DePaul Society, it’s in great shape, because they’ll take care of the spiritual and corporal acts of Mercy.

Oswald noted that the activities performed by the group have changed slightly over the years depending on the amount of members they have. Overall, she explained, the group helps supplement the priests in helping do some of the things they aren’t able to do in their time frame.

The active members of the Legion of Mary go out and visit assisted living residents twice a month. They assist the priest with a weekly Mass at the nursing home and on every Thursday they hold a Communion service and lead the rosary at the nursing home.

At the local resident facility they assist in a monthly Mass, a weekly Communion service and lead the rosary weekly. Another thing that the Legion does is visit the nursing home and say the rosary on the Saturdays they don’t have Mass.

Furthermore, they lead the rosary for any deceased members at the funeral home.

The members of the group all share the work and are able to choose what they volunteer for.

Jeanne Martin, who has been a member for around 30 years, said, “I think it helps the community to stay together. It helps out the church too. We can go visit the people at the nursing homes and the Eucharistic ministers can take out Holy Communion. If they need any help from the priests we can send the priest out to pray with them too.”

Currently the Legion of Mary in Carroll has nine active members and 71 auxiliary members. The auxiliary members say the legion prayers everyday and pray for the success of the active members.

In addition to the service they do for the community and parish, the active members meet once a week.

The Legion of Mary is a presidium and they report to the Senatus in St. Louis, Mo., as a part of the national organization of the Legion of Mary. Once a year their meetings are visited by the other presidium to see that they are keeping in accord with the program’s mission.

“I think our group is so important because our priests can’t be everywhere and these people (nursing home residents) are unable to get to Mass and they have a need to receive the Eucharist and be prayed with,” said Oswald.

Martin also said how important taking the Holy Communion to the nursing homes is. “It brings the church to them,” she said.

Every year, in order to verify their work, they report the works they have done for the year. Last year alone the Legion of Mary distributed Communion to 3,384 people in various locations. Also, they assisted in over 50 funerals, wakes and Communion visits.

“Even our members don’t realize what wonderful work they are doing until they put it on a piece of paper,” said Oswald.

Deacon Greg Sampson, the spiritual advisor for the group, explained that the Legion of Mary works quietly, so most of the parishioners have only a fuzzy idea of what the legion does.

“I’m sure the pastors of both Carroll parishes know very well what they do, and are grateful that someone is doing it.  Every week, dozens of people are visited by the legionaries.  Most of these people are severely limited in their mobility; these visits are a primary ‘touching point’ with the church,” said Deacon Sampson. “The Legionaries pray with these people, and in many cases, bring them Holy Communion.   This is the kind of stuff we mean when we talk about spiritual means of mercy.”

The Legion of Mary is open for anyone to join. The only requirement is that they attend the weekly meetings.

“I think there’s nothing more satisfactory than what I’m doing here,” said Oswald. “Seeing the people at the nursing home, how happy they are when you come with Communion and having somebody lead them in the rosary, is greater than anything else you do. You gain from it.”

The Legion of Mary is active in other communities as well as Carroll. To find out if a community has a Legion, contact the parish.

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