A Lifelong Connection to Mary, Mother of Jesus

When Shane Mc Gowan died in Nov 2023, my son asked me who the Shane Mc Gowan of my life was. After much consideration, Frank Duff was my choice. Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary in 1921, which is now a worldwide organisation. He broke new ground by including laity in the work of the church, in particular women.

In 1958, as a college student in UCD, I joined the Legion of Mary. My weekly work was to visit the Regina Coeli Hostel, in North Brunswick Street in Dublin. My work there was to run a weekly girls’ club for the girls living in the hostel. The hostel was founded by Frank Duff and provided accommodation for unmarried mothers and their children. The hostel allowed these women to keep their children.

The accommodation housed four mothers per unit, three of whom worked and the other mother minded the children. On the same site there was a building for homeless women and another for homeless men. The whole site was very much a sanctuary in Dublin City for people on the margins.

I got engaged in 1964 and went, as usual, to the girls’ club. While there, one of the little girls, Maggie May asked to try on my ring. I gave it to her and, to my horror, she refused to return it to me. Unbelievably I went home that night without it! I had had a choice, to either fight for my ring and cause a fuss and forcibly get my ring back or to leave it with her and trust that she would return it. The message of Frank Duff was always to spread love so I chose the latter. Next day, as I was leaving my house for work, I saw Maggie May’s sister, Connie, approaching. She returned the ring to me. Frank Duff’s message of love and goodness was spreading.

After I got married, I left the Legion of Mary and got a job in Newbridge with the Holy Family Sisters, founded by, Pierre Bienvenu Noailles, who had a lifelong devotion to Mary under the title Our Lady of all Graces. He was unusual also for his time, in that he included the laity to spread his mission. In the early nineties, Sr. Catherine Moran started a group of the Holy Family Lay Members in the school and I have been a member of that since. Sr. Catherine, following in the footsteps of the Founder, had an enduring vision to include the laity, which she made a reality. I was lucky to have found a place and a space to continue my connection to Our Lady.
Grace Walshe, (H.F. Lay Member)