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Children, teens foster special devotion to Mary

WELLINGTON  |  While there are many worldly distractions for young people today, a Junior Legion of Mary is encouraging children at St. Rita Parish in Wellington to develop a true devotion to Mary and the Trinity as a path to holiness in life.

At a summer meeting in July of the Junior Legion of Mary Our Lady of Grace praesidia, families in Legion of Mary T-shirts prayed the rosary and special Catena prayer, reading from the Tessera (official prayer book).

After the prayers, a junior legionary from each family gave a presentation on the life of one of the saints depicted on stained-glass windows at St. Rita Church, encouraging the children to look to the saints as role models. One saint in particular, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, holds special meaning for the Muñoz family.

The idea of starting a Junior Legion of Mary at St. Rita came from two children, Isaiah and Raymond Muñoz, after their family moved to Florida from California in June 2022. The family became members of St. Rita, especially when they saw St. Kateri depicted on the stained-glass window.

“My sons were members of the Junior Legion of Mary at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church in Santa Clarita, California, and my son, Isaiah, came up with the idea to start a junior legion here,” said Helena Muñoz, administrator of the new Junior Legion of Mary at St. Rita.

The children missed their parish community in California. Ten-year-old Isaiah said, “When we came to Florida, there were no Junior Legions of Mary here. We started one because the Junior Legion of Mary in California had a big place in our hearts, and we just couldn’t leave that behind, so we started one here.”

Explaining why the Junior Legion is so important to their family, Helena said, “Families want to have a sense of community, and when you build these family-friendly communities rooted in their faith, and it’s not a drop-off service, it brings the family together in prayer.”

Each parish that has a praesidia is officially given a title of the Blessed Mother. In January 2023, the Junior Legion of Mary praesidia at St. Rita became official, named for Our Lady of Grace.

Believing that it may have been divine intervention, Helena said, “Maybe this is why God moved us here, to help evangelize and to bring more children closer to our Blessed Mother and to our Lord, bringing families together in prayer.”

The goal of the Legion of Mary throughout the world is the sanctification of its members through prayer, sacraments and a true devotion to Mary with an uncompromising love for the Lord.

Lidia Doura, junior praesidia president and mother of two junior legionaries, Mason and Blake, explained how the ministry finally came to fruition. “We began by praying the rosary with the children to get them to be interested for about a month, and then after that we had our official meeting at the end of January.

“It’s really a family ministry bringing them to Christ,” Doura said. “It is definitely a path to holiness, and the rosary is a great tool as they grow into adulthood to be able to be spiritually strong.”

The Junior Legion of Mary members, ages 6 to 17, are encouraged to do good deeds on a daily basis in their path toward sanctity and holiness. Doura gave a few examples of the works: “They can help by doing chores at home, helping their parents and helping their siblings.”

Vice president Jill Kozol gave credit and thanks to St. Rita’s priests, Father Mario Castañeda, pastor, and Father Marco De Leon, parochial vicar, for their support and help in establishing a Junior Legion of Mary at the parish.

With gratitude for the families, Kozol said, “I am edified by the dedication of the families of our members. One parent always attends the meetings with their children, and they bring their children to Mass and pray the Legion prayers and rosaries in their homes as a family.”

The adult Legion of Mary was founded in Dublin, Ireland, as a Catholic Marian movement by a layman, Frank Duff. The Legion of Mary is the largest apostolic organization of laypeople in the church. In July 1996, a cause for beatification was introduced for Servant of God Frank Duff (1889-1980).

For more information about the Junior Legion of Mary at St. Rita, call 954-540-9900. Beginning Sept. 11, the praesidia will meet Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m. in the St. Rita chapel.