THE SEED PLANTED IN AFRICA GREW TEN FOLDS
Founding of the Legion of Mary
The Archdiocese of Nairobi Legion of Mary devotional group was started on 23rd November 1936 when 29-year-old Edel Quinn set foot in Mombasa. Sent by Frank Duff the founder of the group at the invitation of Bishop Heffernan, Edel was asked if she would accept the assignment in Africa instead of England, it is said she replied, “With all my heart.”
Edel’s response to the call of service set her on a voyage by rail to Nairobi from London on 29th October 1936 heading to East Africa, Kenya. Upon arrival, she immediately embarked on planting the Legion of Mary seed. It is here the first Legion of Mary envoy to Kenya was started during the first Praesidium in Nairobi Kenya at the Holy Family Minor Basilica on 7th December 1936 on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This Praesidium took the name ‘Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception’
Over the years, Edel Quin was also able to quickly open many praesidia in Kenya including Machakos, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega and Bungoma among others. Their numbers grew. Uganda, Tanzania, Nyasaland (Malawi) and Mauritius not being left behind.
Understanding the Apostolate
Legion of Mary is a group of Catholics of lay apostolate, sanctioned by the Church under the leadership of Mary Immaculate, Mediatrix of All Graces to serve the Church and their neighbor on a voluntary basis in about 170 countries. Legionaries as termed, deduce their inspiration from the true devotion of Mary, as taught by St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and which had a profound influence on the Founder of the Legion, the Servant of God, Frank Duff.
They aim at glorifying God through the holiness of its members developed through prayer and active co-operation in Mary’s and the Church’s work. Members participate in visitation of families, the sick, both in their homes, hospitals and through collaboration in every apostolic and missionary undertaking. For ministry to continue, legions require ecclesiastical approval to work in a diocese or parish with their loyalty to the local authority as a basic legionary principle.
In the Archdiocese of Nairobi, this group is found in all the deaneries and is governed by the Senatus, one Comitium (based in Thika) and several curiae.
The Senatus has its See in Nairobi with the offices at St. Francis Xavier, Parklands. There are also superintends in the lower councils in Kenya. The two Regiae: Kisumu and Bungoma; comitiae and curiae in the other dioceses.
The superintended by the Senatus are those in the dioceses of Nairobi, Kitui, Nakuru, Machakos, Ngong and Kericho, Military Ordinariate, Mombasa, Garissa, Malindi, Meru, Murang’a, Embu. While Kisumu Regia superintends Curiae and Comitiae are in the dioceses of Kakamega, Kisumu, Kisii and Homa Bay. Bungoma Regia superintends Curiae and Comitiae are in the dioceses of Bungoma, Eldoret, Kitale, and Lodwar.
Convening of the group
With the declining numbers of the group in the present years, currently, the membership of the legions in Kenya stands at an approximate total number of 49,048; Active members at 46,188, and the auxiliary members at 2,855. There are also two Regia, 19 Comitia, 107 Curiae and 639 Praesida.
The group holds weekly meetings termed as Praesidium. Here, legionaries gather around a table, place the Immaculate Conception statue of Our Lady on a white cloth, flanked with two lit candles, and two silver vases of flowers. A replica of a small legion stand is placed on the rights side of the statue.
Legionaries prioritizes the spiritual and social welfare of each individual. Each member is required to carry out a weekly apostolic work in the spirit of faith and in union with Mary. Through the visitation of homes of the sick and the marginalized which is vital for the legionary apostolate.
Recently, the group celebrated 100 years since it was established in the Catholic Church across the world. The celebration held at Holy Family Minor Basilica, is a reminder when Edel Quinn started the first legionary group in Africa, specifically in Kenya. The declining numbers in membership is a push to the groups’ apostolate on the need to be vibrant in ministry for the survival of this group.
With the groups’ main objective being prayers, the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Bishop David Kamau during the Eucharistic celebration of the group’s centenary said, “being a legionary is not easy; it is not a holiday; it is work.”
Truly the mission of Christ continues and with prayers from Mother Mary continually guiding them through the rosary.