The Legion of Mary, an international association of practicing members of the Catholic Church who serve the Church on a voluntary basis, is founded as a Roman Catholic Marian Movement by layman by Br. Frank Duff on September 7, 1921 at Myra House, Francis Street, in Dublin.
Duff’s idea is to help Catholic lay people fulfill their baptismal promises and be able to live their dedication to the Church in an organized structure, supported by fraternity and prayer. The Legion draws its inspiration from St. Louis de Montfort‘s book True Devotion to Mary.
The legionaries first start out by visiting hospitals, but they are soon active among the most destitute, notably among Dublin prostitutes. Duff subsequently lays down the system of the Legion in the Handbook of the Legion of Mary in 1928.
The Legion of Mary soon spreads from Ireland to other countries and continents. At first, the Legion is often met with mistrust due to its dedication to lay apostolate which is unusual for the time. After Pope Pius XI expresses praise for the Legion in 1931, the mistrust is quelled.
Most prominent for spreading the Legion is the Irish legionary Venerable Edel Mary Quinn for her activities in Africa during the 1930s and 40s. Her dedication to the mission of the Legion even in the face of her ill health due to tuberculosis brings her great admiration in and outside of the Legion. A canonization process is currently under way for Edel Quinn. She is declared venerable by Pope John Paul II on December 15, 1994, since when the campaign for her beatification has continued.
A beatification process is currently underway for Servant of God Frank Duff. In July 1996, the Cause of Duff’s canonisation is introduced by the Archbishop of Dublin, Desmond Connell. A Cause for Canonization for Servant of God Alfie Lambe (1932-1959), Legion Envoy to South America, is introduced by the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires in 1978 and concluded on March 26, 2015.
Membership in Ireland has been declining but due to efforts by the Concilium to attract younger people to its ranks through the Deus et Patria movement, a substantial increase in membership is now occurring.
On March 27, 2014 the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Bishop Josef Clemens, delivers the decree in which the Legion of Mary is recognized by the Holy See as International Association of the Faithful.