Whenever we gather to celebrate anniversaries, jubilees and reunions we gather to remember and retell a story -- a story which happened years ago. However, these stories which we remember and retell in these gatherings are not just unimpressive stories picked out from the daily humdrum of life which does not merit any introspection. Rather we remember and retell stories and experiences which have significance for us, for they touch the quality of our lives and made on them lasting impressions that we carry through life. It could just be any silent, ordinary experience which people who have been unaffected by it could dismiss as trivial. However, for one who has been touched by it, molded by it, it becomes a story worth retelling --and celebrating.
I refer especially to a story which started (it would be inappropriate for me to say “happened” as we shall later see) in the little corner of the sacristy of our august cathedral whose hallowed walls stands as a mute witness to what had transpired fifty years ago. It was there that the formal meeting of the first Praesedium of the Legion of Mary in Panay was first conducted. It was presided over by Fr. Ramon Moreno who after seeing first hand the zeal for the apostolate of the Legionaries while he was studying Canon Law at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, brought home with him some Legion paraphernalia and a strong resolve to establish one in his parish. After securing “the go-signal” from the then Bishop of Jaro, Most Rev. Jose Ma. Cuenco, in September 7, 1945, he started what would become the first Legion of Mary in the whole Island of Panay.
The first branch of the Legion in this part of the world included Salome B. Tarrosa, Magdalena Hofilena, Flora Rabulan and Trinidad Gonzales. Fr. Moreno, the founding father (who is now a parish priest in one dusty town in the Island of Romblon) was appointed as its spiritual director. The Praesedium was known as Radix Sancta, or Holy Root, a very appropriate name for this mother Praesidium for in just a short span of time the movement spread its branches like some wild vine throughout the Island of Panay. The movement spread very fast so that in December 9, 1945, the first Legion Convention was held in the Cathedral of the Parish of Jaro.
Today, after 50 years, the Regia of Western Visayas (which grew out of the first Presidium, Radix Sancta) supervises 7 Comitia, 29 Curiae and 15 directly attached Praesedia. The total number of membership has reached 18,583 full-pledged actives, 5,010 probationers, 1,891praetorians, 57,588 auxiliaries and 1,120 adjutorians scattered in 1,341 senior and 461 junior Praesidia. Indeed, the “holy root” which planted itself on the rich ground of our Parish of Jaro has grown into a giant tree of love and concern for the souls of the people of Panay.
This is the story which the members of the Regia of Western Visayas will retell and celebrate this coming Saturday as they recall the foundation of this apostolic movement fifty years ago. For some this might be insignificant or too small to be elated about. However, for one who has in one way or the other owed the rekindling of their faith to the zealous apostolate of the Legionaries, this is a memory worth re-telling and celebrating again and again.
Personally, I like re-telling and remembering stories -- stories of the past which affected me and molded as to what I have become right now. Whenever this happens, especially during reunions with my classmates, I always feel refreshed afterwards. I feel I am given a new sense of purpose coming from a new awareness of who I am, what I have become because of my past. This is what I would like to share with the Legion of Mary in our parish as they celebrate their coming of age. Go back to your roots and there reexamine and relive the ideals of the past. Your gathering for storytelling and remembering will keep you in touch with the past. Reflect on their significance in your life right now, as you continue to keep alive the spirit that, until now, has united you with one common purpose. After this storytelling, this remembering and this celebration, I assure you, you will come out refreshed and renewed, with a new sense of purpose and you will return to your homes and your apostolate with “new eyes” and a new enthusiasm.
My only wish is that you will constantly persevere in your task, working quietly in the vineyard of the Lord. May you continue to work without funfare like Jesus and his family in the silent years of Nazareth, all the while doing God’s work and purpose in the midst of your communities -- silently, yet persistently and with ever greater resolve.