At the end of the Legion of Mary Mass, Archbishop Alexander Sample shared time with worshippers. (Joys of Life Photography/El Centinela)
At the end of the Legion of Mary Mass, Archbishop Alexander Sample shared time with worshippers. (Joys of Life Photography/El Centinela)
The Legion of Mary marked its 100th anniversary as an apostolic association of laypeople in the Catholic Church.

At a Mass for the centennial celebrated Sept. 11 at St. Cecilia Church in Beaverton, Archbishop Alexander Sample explained his own time in the legion when he was a seminarian. He said he learned much about his ministry by doing what legion members do — visiting homes and encouraging families to maintain their connection with the church. “For a hundred years you have been carrying out the work of the new evangelization,” the archbishop told the congregation. He said that all Christians are called to share the good news.

Founded in 1921, the Legion of Mary now has more than 10 million members, making it the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church.

The celebration in Beaverton began with a rosary, alternating between English and Spanish. More than 200 people attended.

Before the start of Mass, representatives walked in procession, displaying banners with the name of each group.

Alicia García, a member of Immaculate Heart Parish in North Portland and a busy accountant, is president of the Legion of Mary in the Archdiocese of Portland. Joining the organization transformed her life.

“I feel that since I joined the Legion in 2004, our Blessed Mother has guided me to balance my personal and spiritual life,” García said. She credits Mary for helping her succeed in graduate school.

The Legion of Mary in the Archdiocese of Portland has seven presidiums, or units, for adults and one for youth under the age of 18. The group travels with the pilgrim virgin, a statue taken from home to home to facilitate prayer. The legion also organizes the enthronement of the Sacred Heart, the family rosary, visits to hospitals, door to door visits and other contact with parishioners.

During the pandemic, family rosary and Bible study take place online.

Donaldo Rico is a member of St. Cecilia Parish and belongs to the only Spanish language legion group in the archdiocese.

“We are an army of the Virgin Mary,” Rico said. “Our organization aims to serve and conquer the world for Christ through prayer.”

Rico explained that a presidium is the basic unit of the Legion and is normally based in a parish. To be an active legionary it is necessary to apply for membership in a presidium.

Rico added that the focus of his ministry is evangelization, especially with people who are far from the church. “We took the statue of the Virgin and we left it in the house of the families. This really helps families get involved in prayer, specifically praying the rosary, ” he said.

Leticia Pantoja, a member of St. Cecilia for 15 years, said she feels summoned by the Virgin Mary to be a legionary. “I am very excited to assist families and support them with prayer and comfort, especially when they have lost a loved one,” she said.

Pantoja explained that, during the pain and suffering of the pandemic, prayer is comforting for families. Legionaries make home visits to the sick and offer support in spiritual growth, especially taking their ministry to hospitals and nursing homes.

María Herrera, also a member of St. Cecilia, said that being a legionary has been the greatest blessing of her life. Herrera said she has witnessed miracles of God through Mary in the lives of many.