by Joe Bollig
TOPEKA — One of the most venerable lay apostolic organizations in the world — and the largest, with 10 million members worldwide — is the Legion of Mary.
Although the Legion is more visible and numerous in other places, it is also active in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. On the parish level, Legion members are organized into a parish-based group called a “praesidium,” and one such group is in Topeka.
And one such member is Jerry Baker.
Baker and his wife Delores have four children and 13 grandchildren. They’ve been members of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish for about 45 years.
And growing up, Baker and his parents and seven siblings were all members of the Legion. But as is often the case, he did not remain active as an adult.
“Like any other young person, we get involved in other vocations in life — family and work,” he said.
“So Mother Mary brought it back to my attention,” added Baker, who is now retired. “She gave me the opportunity to become a full-time Legionnaire.”
About the same time the Blessed Mother reintroduced him to the Legion, she also introduced him to Sister Ann Boylan, SCL. She leads a ministry to the aging at Most Pure Heart.
Legionnaires are required to adhere to a disciplined prayer regimen (including a daily rosary) and two hours of substantial work a week. Legion membership fit splendidly with the needs of the parish’s ministry to the aging.
Baker joined the Legion and the ministry to the aging in January 2012. Sister Ann asked him to lead rosaries at Topeka area nursing homes and care facilities.
“We don’t go out on our own, but under the guidance of the Blessed Mother, and she will find the work for us,” said Baker. “She will place opportunities in front of us. I don’t have to ever worry about the work. Mother Mary gives incredible guidance.”
At first, he began praying the rosary at one care facility. Now, he leads it at a couple different care facilities seven days a week — often for a total of 10 or so.
And on Sunday mornings, he’s a lay minister of the Eucharist, bringing holy Communion to the individuals at care facilities.
“I do a Scripture reading, a reflection and additional prayers taken from the ‘Daily Prayer’ guide, published by Liturgy Training,” said Baker.
Although his rosary ministry is directed toward Catholics, a surprising number of non-Catholics like to participate, he said.
“Jesus said, ‘Come follow me,’” said Baker. “God came to us, especially the sinners. I’m doing my best to address my own weaknesses but, at the same time, accepting God’s call to be the hands and heart of the Blessed Mother.
“[God] wants us to spread his word throughout the corners of the earth, and my corner of the earth is the Topeka area.”