Diocesan News

Junior Legion of Mary Strives to Get Youth ‘Closer to Jesus’

Lily Acevedo, pictured with her son Chris, said her devotion to the Blessed Mother dates back to her girlhood in her native Mexico.

GRAVESEND — Lily Acevedo, a member of the Legion of Mary at Most Precious Blood-Sts. Simon and Jude Parish, saw firsthand how the organization brought people closer to their faith through prayer and good works. 

It gave her an idea. “I wanted children to be close to the Blessed Mother because she gets you closer to Jesus,” she said.

So in 2021, she approached her pastor, Father John Maduri, and suggested establishing a Junior Legion of Mary. He readily agreed and the group, which began with a small handful of children, has grown to include more than 30 members.

The chapter meets Saturdays at Sts. Simon and Jude Church’s hall in Gravesend to pray the rosary and talk about the Blessed Mother. The youngsters are encouraged to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy during the week and report back what they have done. 

But there is also time for play. These are kids, after all. After the meeting finishes, the youngsters have been known to kick a soccer ball around for a while. 

The members, who are mostly middle school students, perform service projects for the parish, like helping the adults in the Legion of Mary repaint a statue of Jesus Christ that had peeling paint, decorating the church fence for Christmas and holding food drives. Many of the kids serve in other ways — as altar servers and junior ushers.

The chapter will celebrate May Crowning — an annual tradition in which Catholics place crowns on statues of Mary — with a rosary rally at Sts. Simon and Jude Church on May 11.

Marielle Garcia, 11, said she loves being a member. “You get to play or just talk if you want to. But you have to pray the rosary first. It makes me feel good to learn about Jesus and Mary,” she explained. 

Daniel Ortega, a 9-year-old altar server, said his service, coupled with his membership in the chapter, is a big part of his life. ”I learn a lot and I have fun,” he explained. 

The Junior Legion of Mary is an off-shoot of the Legion of Mary, a Marian organization founded by Catholics in Dublin, Ireland, in 1921. The legion, which has chapters (called “praesidiums”) in 160 countries, encourages members to help people in need. 

The Junior Legion of Mary is important to the parish, Father Maduri said. “The Legion of Mary was founded as an evangelization ministry. What Lily wanted to do by starting a junior version here was to bring that same evangelization spirit to our young people. They can go out and spread God’s word,” he explained.

Looking around the church hall as children raced by on their scooters, Acevedo’s son Chris, 18, who leads the rosary at each meeting, said he and his mom never dreamed the chapter would grow so big. 

“It’s amazing to look back and see how it started as a small group. We had six kids at the first meeting. Look at us now!” he said.