Mary is model of discipleship, Legion of Mary told

5 Lowe preaching

At the centenary Mass for the Legion of Mary, Auckland Bishop Stephen Lowe told more than 300 legion members that he loves the logo of the organisation.

Preaching at St Michael’s church, Remuera, on June 18, Bishop Lowe described the logo, with an image of the Holy Spirit on top and Mary in the middle, with the world below.

“The Holy Spirit comes down on Mary, and Mary is a model for the whole Church,” Bishop Lowe said. “We are called to be like Mary, a disciple, and we are called to go out to the whole world. And like Mary, we point to her Son — do whatever he tells you. That’s what she said in Cana in Galilee.”

More than ever, the Church and society needs the work of the legion, to carry the message of Mary’s Son to the world, Bishop Lowe said.

“Thank you for the work you are doing now. I encourage you to keep on doing it, to bring more into the legion, so that the message of Christ might be known by the world, and that more and more people in our world will be like Mary – disciples of the Son of God who became the Son of Mary.”

In his homily, Bishop Lowe drew a link between the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth and the day of Pentecost. Both involved movements of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the wonders of God, notably in Mary’s Magnificat. The Visitation was a “Pentecost moment”, Bishop Lowe said.

“You, the Legion of Mary, are the fulfilment of that visitation, because you are ‘Pentecost moments’ when you go out as well. Because you go out to those who are lonely, you go out to those who are hungry, you go out to those who need mercy. And you are sharing your love and your faith, and it is that which brings hope to our world, and particularly hope to those who are in darkness.”

The bishop spoke about the discipleship of Mary, noting this emphasis at the Second Vatican Council.

Mary “stands in the midst of our Church as our mother. She stands as the woman who heard the Word of God and was obedient to the Word of God, who embraced the Son in her heart and was open to the Holy Spirit. And that is the model for us”.

“But notice that, straight after the Annunciation, Mary is going out on mission,” Bishop Lowe added. At the Second Vatican Council, “the bishops wanted all of us believers in the Church to look at Mary particularly as this incredible woman of faith, this courageous woman of faith, who is not afraid to go out to the world. To look at her relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to embrace that in our lives.

“She becomes the model of all disciples. And it is in that model of Mary of Nazareth that is the real model for you and the Legion as we go out to the world. Ever since the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis – they have all been drawing us back to that image of Mary. Don’t get stuck on a devotional model of Mary that becomes so distant from the world — Mary is the one who engaged with the world. And, as mother, I think she taught her Son how to do that as well, as only mothers can.”


“That is the challenge for us today,” Bishop Lowe said. “We live in a really, really different world. And Paul VI says that we shouldn’t really be presenting Mary in a devotional way that people don’t really get or understand. Rather we should be presenting Mary as one that we can admire and want to be like, to go out to the world. And that is what she does. She goes out to the world, no matter how difficult that is. She is the one who stands at the foot of the cross and watches the suffering of her Son and prays. She is the mother who stands before the suffering of our world and prays. And she wants us, who are in the world today, to be with the suffering — not just praying, but doing something, following her example as a disciple who goes out, who shares the Good News of her Son, who shows us how to care for those in need, recognise the needs of others, and care for them.”

The centenary celebration in Auckland took place a year later than originally planned, because of Covid-19-related lockdowns and restrictions.

The Legion of Mary began in Dublin in Ireland in 1921, with Frank Duff as its founder. A New Zealander, Elizabeth Kirwan, was the first president of a Legion praesidium, and the first president of the overall association. The Legion started in Dunedin with an inaugural meeting in 1933, and in Christchurch the next year, and five years later started in Auckland — at St Michael’s parish, Remuera, on June 16, 1938.

At the centenary Mass in 2022, speaking on behalf of the legion in New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Auckland senatus president John Tagiilima thanked Bishop Lowe for celebrating the Mass.

“The work of the legion is dependent upon the approval and support of every bishop and every parish priest in every diocese. Here in New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, we are so fortunate to have this support of all the bishops where the Legion of Mary operates,” Mr Tagiilima said.

“The legion work includes door-to-door visitation, parishioner visitation, prison ministry, visitation of the sick and the elderly, . . .religious education, visiting the newly-baptised, rosary statue rotation, and meeting other spiritual needs of the parish community.”

Mr Tagiilima added that “the legion is, in essence, and extension of the heart and hands of the parish priest”.

He said that Covid-19 might have tempered some of these works of late — but legion members have made use of modern technology such as zoom to carry on their work.

According to the Legion of Mary’s New Zealand website, the Legion of Mary is “the largest apostolic organisation of lay people in the Catholic Church, with well over three million active members in almost every country of the world”.



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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Hamish says

    On the very night the Bolsheviks
    rose as one, in Russia, Irish Catholic
    layman Frank Duff convened the first
    Legion of Mary meeting.
    The Bolsheviks have gone and the
    Legion of Mary is still alive today.

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