Legion of Mary dedicated to prayer, spiritual works of mercy

| Susan Klemond | May 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

After a long vocational journey that involved pursuing different religious orders, Peggy Niemczyk said she heard a call from Mary five years ago to join the lay Catholic Legion of Mary, which had a group at her parish, Epiphany in Coon Rapids.

As a member of what’s known as “the Blessed Mother’s spiritual army,” Niemczyk, 59, seeks Mary’s assistance to grow closer to Christ and help others through spiritual works of mercy such as her work at a Coon Rapids nursing home.

“It’s a lay vocation, an important vocation,” said Niemczyk, now president of the St. Paul Comitium, (Latin for “assembly”) the Legion’s archdiocesan organization.

The Legion of Mary in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis draws lay Catholics from 8- to 90-year-olds to grow in holiness through prayer and work for parishes and other organizations with the goal of reaching souls for Christ. Local Legion leaders seek to recruit new members and introduce younger generations to what they say is a way to sainthood, working in union with Mary under the Holy Spirit’s influence.

“Working closely with the Blessed Mother, identifying with her as our mother and teacher, leads [us] to understand and follow [the] Holy Spirit and what God asks of us,” said Father Randal Kasel, St. Paul Comitium spiritual director and pastor of St. Michael in Pine Island, St. Paul in Zumbrota and Holy Trinity in Goodhue. “Mary teaches us how to do that.”

Inspired by St. Louis de Montfort’s writings on Mary, Legion founder Frank Duff established the lay apostolate in Dublin, Ireland, in 1921. Worldwide, the Legion has 10 million active and auxiliary (praying) members in 170 countries.

In the archdiocese since 1941, the Legion has 65 active members, who each week meet and dedicate two hours to apostolic work, and 330 auxiliary members, who attend some meetings and pray daily — especially the rosary and the Magnificat — for Mary’s intentions. Members, many in their 50s, belong to one of 10 parish groups or “praesidia,” (Latin for “garrison of troops.”)

Up to 25 grade school and junior high children pray the rosary and do faith-related projects in the junior Legion of Mary at St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater. Several other parishes also are forming junior legions, Niemczyk said.

Usually working in pairs and often assisting their parish, Legion members visit nursing homes and hospitals, lead faith formation and parish prayer, and visit isolated or non-active parishioners, said Tom Ryan, 39, Comitium secretary and St. Michael and St. Mary praesidium treasurer who joined the Legion two and a half years ago.

Personal contact with those not practicing the faith is part of the Legion’s work, Father Kasel said.

“We reach out to them, we pray for them, we encourage them and we let our Blessed Mother lead us in that,” he said.

With several others, Ryan prays weekly with inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater who are often unfamiliar with the rosary.

“It becomes instruction,” he said. “It becomes developing a prayer life with them, and we do intercessory prayer and pray for each other.”

Legion leaders want to attract younger members and to re-engage former ones, Niemczyk said. Many Catholics don’t know about the Legion, she added.

There is much work to be done in the Church, and the Legion’s biggest challenge is to teach the faith, Niemczyk said.

The Legion works with Mary to bring her to people’s hearts so they can know Jesus, Father Kasel said.

“Then they’re going to know Jesus because that’s exactly what Mary does perfectly — she brings people to know her saon and prays for that with the Holy Spirit, he said.”

For more information about the Legion of Mary, email pniemczyk@msn.com.

Category: Local News