A BEAUTIFUL STORY TO BE TOLD:
The Legion of Mary in Oceania 1932-2005
by Joachim O'Brien OFM
(Legion of Mary, 2005, 96pp, $7.00 plus postage. Available through AD Books)
The present work has been a labour of love for Fr Joachim O'Brien and will be welcomed by all who have been involved with the Legion of Mary over the years in this part of the world.
The names of Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary in Ireland in 1921, and Fr Aedan McGrath, a Columban missionary and founder of the Legion of Mary in China have become legendary within the Catholic Church.
In 1965, when Frank Duff was introduced as an observer at Vatican II during discussion of the layman's call to the apostolate, there was loud and sustained applause from the two thousand five hundred bishops present. The Council's teaching would reflect what Duff had been promoting for decades.
Fr McGrath - who died aged 96 in the year 2000 - was imprisoned for three years by the Chinese communists in the 1950s and later spent nearly forty years in Oceania working to advance the Legion of Mary. He was particularly impressed with its growth in this region and during his final visit to Australia in 1999 was insistent that the story of the Legion's expansion from its Melbourne Senatus base in 1932 to the present should be told. "You have a beautiful story but no one knows about it," he said.
Father O'Brien undertook to tell the story and after four years of painstaking research, this is the result. The author recalled: "I read copies of eight hundred and forty Minutes which covered seventy years of Senatus meetings and other archival material. I began to understand why Fr Aedan was so insistent the facts should be known. Here was history of the Legion of Mary as an eminent part of the Australian and Pacific Catholic Church during the twentieth century, the story of men and women, legionaries of Mary who made this possible."
While the book is short, it is very compact, covering a vast amount of territory and subject matter in its twenty-eight brief chapters, making accessible for devoted legionaries and interested readers a wide range of rare and fascinating resources. Some of the chapter titles include, "Beginning the Legion in Australia, 1932-1942", "Outpost in New Guinea", "Legion in Parish Life, 1960-1970" and "Vatican II to Pope John Paul II, 1965-1978."
In the process, we not only follow the progress and varying fortunes of the Legion of Mary, but we learn something of the Church's history in Oceania and the wider world during a period of change and even turmoil.
Fr O'Brien has performed a great service for the Legion of Mary and its many friends, as well as the Church generally. He has every reason to be proud of his efforts.