NEW BEDFORD — St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford has recently established a Legion of Mary. The group is going into its tenth week of formation and Apostolic work.
The essential aim of the Legion of Mary is the sanctification of its members through prayer, the sacraments and devotion to Mary and the Trinity, and of the whole world through the apostolate of the Legion.
The St. Anthony Parish Legion decided unanimously to honor Our Mother with the title, “Our Lady of Good Counsel.”
St. Anthony’s pastor, Father Mariano Varela, IVE, has personally witnessed the fruits of the apostolic work done by active members of the Legion of Mary in all his previous assignments prior to becoming pastor of St. Anthony of Padua.
“At our parish, we began with establishing a Praesidium, which is what the small group meeting is called every Friday evening that goes over the handbook so that everyone will become familiar with the Legion and what is asked of each of us,” he said.
“The Legion sees as its priority the spiritual and social welfare of each individual. The members participate in the life of the parish through visitation of families, the sick in their homes and in hospitals and through collaborating in every apostolic and missionary undertaking sponsored by the parish. Every legionary is required to carry out a weekly apostolic work in the spirit of faith and in union with Mary.”
Elena Cruz an active member, told The Anchor, “It’s definitely not what I expected. I like it because is very structured and organized. It does not demand too much time and it does not force the members to be 24/7 at the church, which helps to maintain a balance between family, work and our spiritual life.
“Also, I like that we can practice works of mercy suggested in Matthew 25:36 and that way we are not just filling our souls but also there is action, we serve God helping others.” Cruz has been given the task to do home visitation reaching out to all the youth who once were parishioners and no longer come to church. She is meeting them in their own homes, analyzing their current situations and working with them, hoping and praying they return back home to the Catholic faith.”
Edwin Aldarondo, President of the Praesidium, is very optimistic about the future of the Legion of Mary at St. Anthony. “Our Legion is working exclusively with the English community. It’s not an easy task to be the president because with it comes a great responsibility and requires some leadership. The thought of the world and culture of today in which Our Lady is asking us to enter and evangelize is an enormous challenge that requires prayers and commitment.
“Our pastor plays a very important role in guiding us all through the process of the Praesidium, the Apostolic Work and providing us the means to grow spiritually since we cannot give what we don’t have. The auxiliary members also help us by their constant prayers for the apostolic work the active members are carrying out. It’s all about teamwork and Jesus is guiding the entire process through Mary His and our Mother.”
The spirituality of the Legion of Mary is essentially based on the approach of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort as put forward in his book, True Devotion to Mary. St. Grignion de Montfort promoted a “total dedication” to Christ through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which later also influenced many popes such as Pope St. Pius X, and Pope John Paul II, as mentioned in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.
Another important element that shaped Legion spirituality was the Legion Founder Frank Duff’s devotion to the Holy Spirit. He promoted adoration of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity through the Virgin Mary, whom he saw as the “visible image” of the Spirit of God. This is why the introductory prayers (Tessera), and the Legion promise are directed to the Holy Spirit and the Standard of the Legion bears the Holy Spirit image in the form of a dove.
The idea of an organization where ordinary lay people, in all situations of life, would work for their own sanctification and for the conversion of the world was groundbreaking for its time. It gained more traction under the reign of Pope Pius XI and has steadily increased since that time.
“To consider the remarkable history of the Legion of Mary from the moment of its beginning to our current times is something that all its members reflect on,” Father Varela told The Anchor. “It’s almost like reflecting on the history of the Catholic Church founded by Christ upon the Rock Peter. Throughout the 2,000-plus years the Holy Spirit, Our Blessed Mother Mary and the saints have guided Her to our present times.”
The St. Anthony of Padua Praesidium meetings are held at St. Anthony of Padua Church Hall classroom every Friday from 6-7 p.m.
The St Anthony Legion is presenting the documentary film, The Rosary, A Prayer of Miracles,” on Sunday, September 25 at 3 p.m.
The event is free of charge and includes a question and answer session following. It will be held in the parish hall.
The parish legion is also sponsoring a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Martyr Shrine in Fultonville, N.Y. on October 8, led by Father Varela. For more information or to register call the parish or Edwin Aldarondo at 508-525-6797.
For information call the parish rectory at 508-993-1691.
The contacts for the four praesidiums at parishes in the Diocese of Fall River:
– St. Mary of the Assumption (The Cathedral) in Fall River, praesidium name, ‘Miraculous Lady of Roses’ – Contact – Laura Cousineau 774-264-4985; eml: firstname.lastname@example.org
– St. John the Evangelist; Attleboro, praesidium name ‘Mary, Mother of God’ – Contact Laeticia Balcarcel, President * 508-463-8663 is the only Spanish praesidium
– St. Joseph, Fairhaven, praesidium name, ‘Our Lady Queen of Peace’ – Contact Joyce Sylivia, 774-473-7327 President; Joann Longden V.P. e-mail: email@example.com
– St. Anthony, New Bedford, praesidium name, ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’ – Contact Edwin Aldorando, President, 508-525-6797; eml: firstname.lastname@example.org