Monday, July 13, 2009

Church of Korea's Legion of Mary

There was a news report that mentioned a Legion of Mary presidium in Pusan with 100% attendance for 10 years starting from March 2000. An extraordinary fact, very hard to pass over without a comment. There were 12 members of the presidium and most of them are over 73 , the majority illiterate. This is an indication of the place of the Legion in the life of the Korean Church. There is possibly no country in the world that has a Legion of Mary as active and as large as the Korean Legion of Mary.

The Legion is the largest lay Catholic group in the Korean Church with about 300,000 active members and about a similar number of auxiliaries, and over 30,000 Presidia ( individual groups). There are very few parishes without a Legion. There is even a group in the mission station at which I am in residence.

The Legion of Mary is the most successful lay apostolic group in the Korean Catholic Church. It has made a tremendous contribution to Church development. It has helped Catholics mature in their faith, motivated them to participate in the work of the Church, gave them a taste for small group activity, helped them to understand the life of prayer and gave them a desire for learning and motivation to improve their life of Faith.

A chaplain for the Legion is quoted as saying that: " we can't think of the Korean Catholic Church without the Legion of Mary, and Korean lay Catholics' spirituality can naturally be thought of as the spirituality of the Legion of Mary."

The Legion can and often does go along without the direction of the priest although this is not what is desired. In some parishes you have over 20 different presidia and a curia that helps them to coordinate their work. The prayer and effort they expend in apostolic works is truly impressive. They are expected to spend 2 hours each week doing some missionary activity with another person: women and men, young and old learned and illiterate, a cross section of the Korean Church.

The Legion has a problem, however, with many within the Church for not changing their handbook which is pre- Vatican II; much of the spirituality is not attractive to many within the Church. Some do not want to tamper with something that is not broken others want to see more freedom and fewer regulations. This will be a point of contention for many in the years to come. It will be interesting to see the changes that will be made. It has been a force for good and hopefully after the discussion and changes, it will continue to be a force for good.

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