By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — Legion of Mary founder Frank Duff, an Irish layman who was recently beatified by the church, set the Annunciation of Our Lord as the appropriate time to celebrate the first Acies ceremony and Mass in 1921. The tradition of the Acies ceremony lives on today as all Legion of Mary members throughout the world, active and auxiliary, renew their commitment to the work of the church through the prayerful guidance of the Blessed Mother. This year the South Carolina Legion gathered on March 24, where more than 90 members of their curia came to Our Lady of the Hills to get spiritually rejuvenated.
The ceremony composed of Legion prayers began with the rosary led by celebrant Bishop Robert J. Baker who was joined by Father Peter Clarke, pastor of St. Edward Church, and deacons Jack Crocker, Lowell O’Grady, and Harry Pecko.
“On Oct. 8, 2000, at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington we entrusted our diocese in union with Pope John Paul II who entrusted the universal church to Mary, Most Holy that same day,” said the bishop, who connected the personal consecrations of Legion to the universal entrustment done in October.
During his homily, the bishop offered words of encouragement and appreciation to the group, “I invite you to continue on. The Legion is at the center of the church’s evangelization effort; you are encouraged and supported by the greatest evangelizer, Mary, and she is going to prod each of us to have an active not passive role.” He also mentioned how Mary stood at the foot of the cross when others fled, setting a perfect example for the church. He went on to say that Mary helps the faithful understand God’s plan, as she did, close up, first hand.
“It was a remarkable day,” said Sharon Crocker, president of the South Carolina Curia. “We were thankful for the presence of the bishop and felt the special grace from his participation in this important event.”
This annual ceremony is central to Legion as members reconsecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother saying, “I am all yours, my Queen, my Mother, and all that I have is yours.” This act of trust, according to the Legion, is an attempt to love Jesus and serve him humbly as Mary did. It is a unifying experience for men and women working at the common goal of bringing Christ to others with courage, love and loyalty to the church. Some of their work includes being catechists, sponsors in the RCIA program, and Eucharist ministers for the local hospitals. They assist in programs working with the migrants, offer service hours at the Catholic booth at the State Fair, provide a lending library for the parish and other educational initiatives. Activities may vary from parish to parish based on the pastor’s need since the pastor directs all their work. Acies, a Latin word, which means “army ranged in battle array,” seems to capture the mission of this army of loving servants who through the grace of the Holy Spirit bring down the walls of fear, indifference and prejudice allowing the saving grace of God to be known through the spiritual works of mercy.
The curia, under the leadership of Sharon Crocker, was formed September 2000 and is composed of nine different praesidia (church affiliated groups). Some of the groups, like St. Martin de Porres, have been in existence for more than 15 years. Prior to the establishment of the South Carolina Curia, the praesidia reported to the Miami Regia. Columbia area churches, Our Lady of the Hills, St. Martin de Porres, St. John Neumann and Corpus Christi Church attended as well as legionaries from St. Edward Church in Murphy Village, St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Aiken, and St. Augustine Church in Union.
Bishop Baker stated a need for healing in the world and feels that the Legion of Mary is one of the healing communities that can provide a bridge of forgiveness and unity. Through personal invitation and the action of the Holy Spirit, Sally Thompson, a new Catholic, was able to find a way to fulfill her baptismal call to be an active participant in her faith.
“I was a convert to the church. Once I got confirmed I said I am now a Catholic. What can I do to be connected? Leaving Eucharistic Adoration one day, I felt a call to do something more, and I met a Legion of Mary member who invited me to come to a meeting, and I have been a member ever since,” said Thompson, president of Mary Help of Christian Presidium at Corpus Christi Church.