Nine active members and 260 auxiliary members maintain the presence of the Legion of Mary in Fort Dodge.
The organizationthe largest apostolic organization of lay people in the Catholic Churchencourages members in spiritual growth and evangelization through prayers and work. Legionaries work for their local pastors in any community work such as: visiting the homebound, those in hospitals, parish new comers and inactive Catholics; as well as teaching religion, doing parish census work and door-to-door evangelization.
Locally, one main focus of the Legion of Mary is the creation of rosaries. Last year, the group made 1,500 rosaries. Members helped second-grade First Communion children make their own rosaries, and the Legionaries make about 400 rosaries a year for inmates at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, according to Frances Stetson.
The local Legion of Mary group meets Thursdays at the Corpus Christi Center. On the end is president Frances Stetson. On the right is Kathy Gobeli; Tom Hickey, and Betty Kelly.
Stetson is president of the local organization. A local Legion of Mary group is called a praesidium: a name borrowed from a Roman army term referring to a defensive detachment. Years ago there were praesidia in many area communities. Now Our Lady of Loretowhich was started in Fort Dodge in the late 1950sis the only active group left in the district which extends from Algona to Boone. Loreto refers to the house where Mary was born, and to the place where the Annunciationthe Christian celebration of the announcement to mary of the virgin birthoccurred.
Today, the local group meets Thursdays at the Corpus Christi center to discuss business and to pray.
The group places pamphlets, CD's and rosaries in Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart churches. During Lent and in May (the month during which Catholics honor Mary) and October, Legion of Mary members lead the rosary at noon at Corpus Christi. They also make rosaries to give out at churches and nursing homes.
For more information visit the Legion of Mary web site at www.legion-of-mary.ie/
Frances Stetson 576-6331
Betty Kelly 573-2512
In addition the group prays the rosary at the funeral home for any active or auxiliary members who have died and say the rosary weekly at several area care facilities and visit residents there.
Twice a year the group invites the parish priests out to lunch as well. Our Lady of Loreto vice-president Betty Kelly belongs because: "I have a great devotion to Mary for one thing."
She also said, "I feel it is a good thing because we are promoting prayer."
Retired educator Virgie Andre is another active member who leads the rosary in area nursing homes.
"I like working with people and serving people," she said. "I like talking to God and I like to think I'm doing that when I'm here, working with these people here. They are almost all in wheelchairs. They hear what we are saying too because they respond very, very well."
Margaret Gargano has been a member since 1981, the longest. Although unable to participate actively, she said, "It is very worthwhile, going to it. It helps spiritually."
"We need more members," said Stetson. Up until this year the active members would visit the home of every auxiliary member annually but with the death of two active members, and a third with health problems, the group just doesn't have the numbers to make the home visits this year she said.
Even though the membership is down, the need for the group continues to grow; priests and others continue to ask the group to add to the list of places the members visit.
The group sends in a detailed report monthly to the organizations' office in Sioux City. "We have to keep track of everything we do," Stetson said.
Membership is open to any Catholic who is willing to fulfill the required duties.