Links between Brazil & Ireland

 

 

 

The Legion of Mary – Over 50 years in Brazil  (2001)

 

By Tadhg Mc Mahon

 

 

 

Dublin - 25/09/1901.  The Legion of Mary arrived in Brazil fifty years ago and has become one of the most vibrant Catholic apostolic organizations in the Brazilian church with over a million and a half members active and auxiliary.  Although most of those who set up the Legion throughout Brazil were Irish members of the Legion, the first branch was set up by Br. John Creff, a French Brother of the Congregation of Our Lady of Salette.  Br. John had been told about the Legion of Mary in 1950 by a French priest who had encountered the Legion while a prisoner-of war in Germany.  The first branch began with official sanction in Rio on 27 October 1951.  Cardinal Jaime de Barros Camara had stipulated that it should function beyond the confines of the parish of Our lady of Fatima.  This limitation was lifted in 1953.  The first direct contact with Ireland came in 1954 when Dublin sent first its Philippine Envoy, Joaquina Lucas, who had already spent several years in Latin America, and the first Irish Legionary, Alfie Lambe, who had been in Latin America since 1953.  Joaquina and Alfie made the initial foundations São Paulo, Ceará, Goiás, Paraná.  Both have passed on to their eternal reward with Alfie dying in Buenos Aires in 1959, age 26 years, whose cause for beatification has been introduced.

 

Mary Clerkin, who arrived in Brazil in 1955, contributed more than any other sent from Ireland by the Legion to the spreading of the Legion in Brazil.  This young teacher from County Monaghan spent five exhausting years travelling throughout Brazil from Paraná to Tefe in Amazonas, opening up the Brazilian hinterland to the Legion. Dying aged 58 after four years’ of illness may have been the cost of her task – a cost she gladly paid.  As she wrote in a telegram to Dublin on the death of Alfie Lambe in Argentina “She with Joaquina and Alfie are now with Edel Quinn who is venerated throughout the world for her heroic life in Africa.  Where she died in 1944.  Two others were sent to complete the work of Legion expansion in Brazil, Tadhg McMahon, 1959-1962 and Tom Honey, 1961-64; 1965-68.  In the early years of expansion there were almost no Irish priests or nuns but subsequently many of them gave valuable support to the organization, and continue to do so.

 

During the past 15 years or so the Legion has experienced considerable growth and development in Brazil.  Some years after the Vatican Council, premature judgements were made as to the relevance of the Legion to the contemporary Church, so that there was a certain decline.  Its relevance was evident in its broad commitment to the principal areas of Christian growth and service.

 

It seeks to lead its members to achieve their full religious growth, a growth that involves personal, social, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development.  Members meet weekly where prayer, discussion, planning, reporting and comradeship combine to inform inspire and motivate those present to effective love and service of others.  Each member undertakes a weekly task usually with a companion.  The tasks vary from prison visitation, to teaching literacy classes, promotion of prayer and the Sacraments, dialogue and prayer, if appropriate, with those not of the Catholic or Christian faith, catechetical work for children, youths and adults. The preferred work is visitation of homes, not to proselize or to intrude into the lives of others, but to be of service, convinced that friendly communion with others is the means by which God enters human life and human goodness is realized and given its highest expression, meaning and purpose.  As a Catholic organization the Legion has a special trust in the Catholic Church and only functions in communion with it and with the permission of its authorities.  It achieves its greatest successes when working in harmony with the local church.  It can scarcely develop bonds of friendship and cooperation with those not of the Church if failing to be in harmony with those who are part of the Church.  It is convinced of the inestimable value of the Church especially in its witness to the truth though the Bible and its magisterium, its prayer, its liturgical and sacramental life, its commitment to full human happiness now and in the hereafter.  It has an uncompromising supernatural emphasis without losing sight of real needs.  Its handbook states it cannot be indifferent to the material needs of those about them.  The training of people to earn a living as well as instruction in such areas as child welfare, home made medicines and hygiene are some of the works undertaken in the service of others.  In Dublin and elsewhere it runs hostels for the destitute and marginalized.  Perhaps it may do so in Brazil.

 

Administration.  Brazil has eight principal administrative centres all directly linked to the international administrative centre in Dublin.  The world centre in Dublin receives reports from all over the world and likewise seeks to pass on to each local centre.  Reports from Brazil are always a source of inspiration and enlightenment for Legion centres throughout the world.  A word of gratitude to Brazilian Church and its people that have enthusiastically made the Legion of Mary its very own.

 

 

The Legion of Mary

De Montford House

Morning Star Avenue                                                               

Brunswick Street, Dublin 7

t. 0021 3531 872-3153

f. 0021 3531 872-6386

 

The Legion of Mary in Brazil

 

 

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