Jason Osborne and Ruadhán Jones
The focus on lay leadership in the Church of Legion of Mary founder Frank Duff has been hailed as “prophetic” as celebrations get underway to mark the centenary of the organisation. The Irish Catholic can also reveal that final preparations are now underway to progress the cause for canonisation of Mr Duff who died in 1980.
Founded 100 years ago this week, the Legion of Mary remains the largest international organisation ever to come out of Ireland.
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell described Mr Duff as “a man ahead of his time” because of his clear focus on an articulate laity stepping up to leadership within the Church decades before Vatican II.
Comparing Mr Duff to John the Baptist, Archbishop Farrell said “he realised, ahead of his contemporaries that every Christian is called to the apostolic dimension of our Faith”.
“It was only with the Second Vatican Council that the laity began to regain their rightful place in the Church. From its foundation in 1921, the Legion was carrying out the mission of the Church as was proposed by the Second Vatican Council,” Archbishop Farrell said at Mass marking the opening of the centenary in Dublin on Friday evening.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Legion of Mary President Mary Murphy said the “huge” work of reading Mr Duff’s prolific writings has been completed, and that a historical report is currently being prepared in Dublin before the cause that could see him declared a saint can be sent to Rome.
Incoming provincial of the Irish Dominicans Fr John Harris described Mr Duff as “the most influential Irishman in the last 100 years, when you look at the outreach of the Legion of Mary.
“I think he’s been more influential, as an Irish man on the world stage, than anybody else.”
He said that he hoped the centenary would be an opportunity to raise awareness about the huge work of Mr Duff and the legion. There “absolutely should be more excitement around the potential for his canonisation”.
He described him as “a totally and utterly prophetic figure in the life of the Church…This should be something that the whole of the country knows about.”
Ms Murphy said that the difficulty with Mr Duff’s cause is that “there’s huge documentation” because he lived to be 91 and also because he wrote so much.
Mr Duff wrote 33,000 letters, according to Ms Murphy, who says that part of the process for getting the cause ready to go to Rome involved reading all of these letters.
The legion employed a full-time historian and four part-time readers to get through the correspondence.
“All of that work is now done, so at the moment the process is the historical commission, which is chaired by Msgr Ciaran O’Carroll of the archdiocese, he’s a historian, they will now prepare a historical report for the cause to proceed and then hopefully at that point, all the loose ends will be tied up and the cause will be sent to Rome.
This, coupled with the centenary celebrations, have seen the legion experiencing “joy”, as they seek to “continue the apostolic work” that Mr Duff started.
Archbishop Farrell praised Frank Duff as “prophetic in the true Christian sense of that word”.