Junior Legion of Mary

Thirty-plus students move about the education room. Some decorate the Mary table with flowers and candles, some arrange chairs in a circle, and others help with the snack set-up. Laughter and smiles fill the air as the only Junior Legion of Mary group in the Diocese of Orange begins their meeting.

Each week, the grade school and junior high children share their good works. Often it is simply "l helped my mom cook dinner" or "I did my chores." However, the Junior Legion members do so much more. They participate in choir, invite friends to Mass, make rosaries for Health Ministry, help with hospitality and refreshments at Family Mass, attend Adoration, volunteer as altar servers, and assist at our pre-k Sunday School. And they are not shy about taking leadership roles.

At pre-k Sunday School, Junior Legion Catechists lead the 3 to 5 year olds through the weekly activities: Gathering, Discovering, Exploring. Gathering consists of encouraging the children to sit on the rug, asking who they want to pray for, and leading an easy prayer. During the Discovering portion, a Junior Catechist reads that week's Bible passage and guides discussion with the preschoolers about what it means. Exploring is where the

pre-schoolers participate in an activity related to that week's Bible reading.

Who comes up with and leads the activity? Each week it rotates among the Junior Legion Catechists. For example, Easter Sunday's reading is about Jesus' tomb being empty. A clever Junior decided to glue paper cups, tops covered in tissue, to a poster board. The preschoolers were encouraged to search for Jesus in the paper cup tombs. Each time a child removed the tissue cover, they found chocolate "stones" but no Jesus. The lesson? Jesus was not there for He has risen! What a sweet way to share this wonderful message.

When Legion of Mary members Brenda and Rosemary approached Fr. Patrick Moses over eleven years ago about starting a Junior Legion of Mary at Saint Irenaeus, they had no idea how popular and active it would become. The ladies simply wanted to teach the children

"about growing closer to Jesus through Mary" who served our Lord willingly and faithfully. The two attribute the success of the ministry to the loving support of the parish, the parish school, our Mother Mary, and, of course, the children!

And what do the children like best about the Junior Legion of Mary? Helping at Family Mass, making rosaries, praying the Hail Mary, seeing their friends, and being closer to God are just a few of the answers. From altar serving and hospitality, to making rosaries and "thinking of you" cards, from attending Rosary Rallies to teaching younger siblings how to do the Sign of the Cross, the Junior Legion members are eager and happy to serve like Mary.

People say that the children are the future of the church; as the Junior Legion of Mary has proven, the future is here and it is looking bright!