Legion of Mary at 100: Immaculate Conception Regia Celebrates in Awka

….Opens Legion House

By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba

Hymns and pageantry in honour of Holy Mother Mary, filled the air last Sunday, September 26,  as Legion of Mary, Immaculate Conception Regia (comprising the Catholic Diocese of Awka and the Catholic Diocese of Ekwulobia), celebrated the One Hundred Years Anniversary of Legion of Mary Society in the world.

The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor poses with some of the Regia officers, priests and the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke (6th left), after the Mass. The bishop is flanked on his left by his Secretary, Rev Fr Evaristus Ifeanacho, and on his right by the Spiritual Director of Immaculate Conception Regia, Rev Fr Mac Ben Okeke. 2nd left is the Chairman of the Centenary Committee, Bro Anthony Ekene Nwosu.

The historic centenary celebration, held at St Patrick’s Cathedral Awka, featured blessing of the new 2-storey building Regia House at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka, as well as launch for evangelical bus and acquisition of land for Marian Pilgrimage Centre.

Fides gathered that Legion of Mary, a Catholic prayer and evangelization group that was founded by the Servant of God, Frank Duff, in Dublin, Ireland, on September 7, 1921, clocked 100 years on September 7, 2021. But the Regia, for convenience, had the centenary celebration on September 26, 2021.

Frank Duff was said to have through the help of envoys such as Venerable Edel Quinn, who was the Legion Envoy to Africa and the Servant of God, Alphonsus Lambe, both of Ireland, spread the Legion of Mary to Africa and other parts of the world. The first Legion of Mary Praesidium in Nigeria started at Ifute- Ikot Ekpene in the Old Catholic Diocese of Calabar, through Bishop Mounagh.

Legion of Mary, Immaculate Conception Regia led by the President, Bro Hyacinth Mary Igwebuike (left), and the Secretary, Sr Francesmary Orakwue (right), coming for thanksgiving.

Leading in the concelebrated Holy Mass to mark the Centenary Celebration, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, in his homily, thanked God for the growth of the Legion of Mary, a prayer group society of the Church, which, he said, was known with secret bag collection, works of charity and evangelization.

He congratulated the group on the Regia House which was built to serve the Legion of Mary. The bishop however stressed the need for the building to be given the necessary finishing touches, and be equipped properly. He called on all to donate in support of the evangelical bus and Marian Pilgrimage Centre projects of the Regia.

Most Rev Ezeokafor, who based his reflections on the readings of the Sunday, charged the entire people of God to live up to the responsibilities, which, he said, they had in the mission of evangelization of the word of God. He described evangelization as a collaborative responsibility of the clergy, the religious and the laity. According to him, all were called to be evangelizers.

Cutting of the Centenary Celebration cake.

The Immaculate Conception Regia in its address of welcome that was signed by the President, Bro Hyacinth Mary Igwebuike, and the Secretary, Sr Francesmary Orakwue, traced the history of Legion of Mary in the Old Awka Diocese which started in Adazi-Nnukwu in 1941 in Nimo in 1946; Awka in 1960, and later spread to other parts of the current Regia.

The address explained that Legion of Mary at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka, was raised to a Comitium on July 30, 1983, and to the status of a Regia on March 19, 2006, while the Immaculate Conception Regia was inaugurated on November 4, 2007.

Donations in support of the Legion projects were kick started by the chairman of the occasion, Sir John & Lady Felicia Odike, KSG, who donated a bus to the Regia and Senator Victor Umeh, OFR, who donated N5m for the start off of the Marian Pilgrimage Centre.

Front view of the newly blessed Regia House at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Awka.

Immaculate Conception Regia at the event, honoured twenty-two individuals with various classes of award. Among the awardees were Rev Fr Martin Ezeiruaku, Rev Fr Fabian Anumba and Rev Fr Anthony Ezekannagha, who were honoured with distinguished priests after the heart of Jesus and Mary Award. Senator Sir Victor Umeh, KSSM OFR, was honoured with the distinguished Catholic in Politics Award.

The Spiritual Director of the Regia, Rev Fr Mac Ben Okeke, was alongside Bro SamuelMary Arinze; Mrs Chinwe Nweke, Catechist Peter Okani of St Patrck’s Cathedral, Awka and Mr Lawrence Nwafor, honoured with dedicated service award.