Junior Legion Of Mary Makes Time For Prayer
Extra-curricular activities for youth are plentiful throughout the diocese; there is no shortage of athletic and academic teams, scouting groups, clubs and music programs in which students choose to participate. In the midst of all of the choices, a group in the Diocese of Evansville’s West Deanery chooses to gather in prayer.
Bonnie Wannemuehler and the Legion of Mary praesidium at St. Philip Parish in Posey County host the Junior Legion of Mary praesidium as an afterschool meeting held each week throughout the school year for boys and girls in grades 2 through 8 at St. Philip Parish.
The Legion of Mary is a lay Catholic association whose members offer service to the Church, on a voluntary basis, all over the world. At present, it has about 2.25 million active members in more than 160 countries. Active members attend a Legion meeting once a week and perform works of service, typically about 2 hours per week. Auxiliary members pray the rosary and the prayers of the Legion of Mary to support the active members through their prayers.
A Junior Legion of Mary group is an outgrowth of an Adult Legion of Mary group in a parish. Wannemuehler credits Jackie Fehrenbacher with starting the St. Philip Junior praesidium about 20 years ago. Membership has grown from just a few grade-school students to around 30 children currently enrolled. Throughout the school year, they hold weekly meetings where the focus is prayer and service.
Each week the students enter the meeting room in the parish basement and fall easily into the established routine. They eat a snack and take roll call, and prayer begins. The children, led by Wannemuehler and auxiliary members Lois Martin and Marilyn Hirsch, follow a set of established prayers each time: the opening prayers, the Catena Legionis, the Rosary, and concluding prayers.
When finished with prayer, the members begin work on the day’s project.
The group completes multiple service projects throughout the year, which include creating birthday cards and Christmas ornaments for sick and elderly parishioners, Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, First Communion photo frames and hand-tied quilts.
“We usually complete one quilt a year and give it to someone in need,” Wannemuehler said as she displayed photos of past quilts and honored recipients.
This week, as the students work knotting and decorating fleece squares, Brooke Berry, a former member of the Junior Legion of Mary and Reitz High School senior, told them about her recent trip to Washington D.C., on the Pilgrimage for Life. The younger children listened intently as Berry explained the purpose behind the pilgrimage.
There are Legion of Mary presidiums in parishes across our diocese, but very few Junior Legion groups exist. Wannemuehler recalled a time when more groups were actively participating and expressed hope that membership could once again grow throughout the diocese.
Wannemuehler is proud of the junior members and is impressed with their faithful prayer. “Our prayers are important because Mary told us to say the Rosary to save the world,” she said.