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Nairobi’s Legion of Mary Battles with Declining Numbers as Church Associations Multiply

A display of Legion of Mary banner by Legionaries outside Holy Family Minor Basilica. Credit: ACI Africa

The Legion of Mary of Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi is facing a decline in membership, the leadership of the 100-year-old Catholic lay association in the Kenyan Archdiocese has told ACI Africa in an interview.

In the Wednesday, September 8 interview, the Spiritual Director of Legion of Mary in Nairobi Archdiocese, Fr. Boniface Kariuki, said the mushrooming of other associations in the Church is a key factor in the reducing membership.

“One of the challenges the Legion of Mary has been facing since its inception in Kenya is declining numbers, which is as a result of many associations and groups in the Archdiocese of Nairobi,” said Fr. Kariuki.

The lack of commitment on the part of some members has also affected the association, the Kenyan Priest said, adding that weekly meetings are affected owing to absenteeism.

Despite these challenges, Fr. Kariuki remarked, Catholics “who understand the Legion of Mary love it and want to be associated with it.”

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Fr. Boniface Kariuki, Spiritual Director Legion of Mary Nairobi Archdiocese

“As a spiritual director, I have come to learn a lot about Mother Mary and Legion of Mary,” the member of the Clergy of Nairobi Archdiocese told ACI Africa September 8, adding, “Every legionary activity is an appointment with the Blessed Virgin Mary and she does not come alone as she always tags her son Jesus along.”

The Priest who has served as the Spiritual Director of the Legion of Mary in Nairobi Archdiocese since 2006 acknowledged with appreciation the value of Memorare Prayer, which members of the Legion of Mary continually recite.

“The ‘Memorare’ prayer has become a great reality in my life. In part, we pray that nobody has ever come to Mary and went away empty handed,” the Spiritual Director who doubles as the Chaplain at Kenyatta University in Nairobi said.

He asked members of the Legion of Mary to pray for the conversion of souls and to reach out to the needy in society, including the sick.

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According to Fr. Kariuki, there there are about 49,048 registered members of the Legion of Mary in Kenya.

On September 5, the Archdiocese of Nairobi marked the centenary of the Legion of Mary with Holy Mass that was presided over by Bishop David Kamau.

In his homily, Bishop Kamau encouraged commitment among members of the global lay association saying, “Being a legionary is not easy; it is not a holiday; it is work and not everybody takes delight in that work.”

“Let us pride in this day even if we are few, but we are there, we are like a symbol to the world,” the Apostolic Administrator of Nairobi Archdiocese said, alluding to COVID-19 restrictions that limited the number of those gathered at Holy Family Basilica for the centenary celebration.

The Kenyan Bishop called upon members of the Legion of Mary to seek Mary’s intercession for an end to COVID-19 pandemic.

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Speaking to ACI Africa on the sidelines of the September 5 celebration, the chairperson of the Legion of Mary of Nairobi’s Ruaraka Deanery recalled with appreciation the dozen years he has been a member of the association.

“I have been a legionary for 12 years; I have learned a lot and I take delight in the association,” Steven Odhiambo said, and added, “It’s good to be a legionary and I have learned a lot to sustain me for the rest of my life; I urge the youths to join us and delight in it too.”

Pauline Kuria who also spoke to ACI Africa September 5 said in her 25-year period as a legionary, reciting the Holy Rosary has been rewarding.

“When I have some challenges I pray Rosary, which has helped me to grow spiritually,” Pauline said, and continued, “I have recommended the same to my friends and have encouraged them to recite the rosary.”