With 63 years of service in the Legion of Mary, 84-year-old Douglas Rozario is probably one of the organisation’s longest-serving members today.
“Working for Our Lady and my devotion to her keeps me going,” the member of Mother of Christ Praesidium at the Church of the Holy Family told CatholicNews.
Mr Rozario, who prays three Hail Marys several times a day, joined the Legion of Mary in 1949 at the age of 21. Then, he was working with Cable and Wireless, a British telegraph communications company, as an accounts clerk.
The Holy Family Church praesidium was originally named Queen of Peace but was later changed to Mother of Christ “when the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace was built to avoid confusion”, Mr Rozario recalled.
The basic unit of the Legion is called a praesidium which usually has members based in a parish. A parish may have more than one praesidium.
As part of his Legion work in the 1950s, he would bring Communion to the house-bound.
“My fellow member and I used to cycle for home visits to see if the sick needed anointing from a priest,” he said. “If the poor needed financial assistance, we would refer them to the St Vincent de Paul Society.”
Mr Rozario also recalled “cycling to the end of Jalan Eunos hill weekly to teach catechism to children not attending Catholic schools to prepare them for the sacraments”.
Back then, he and his fellow Legionaries visited people from Joo Chiat Road to Changi Point. “However, as more churches were built in the east area, we had less area to cover.”
Other work that the Legionaries did included taking the parish census, clerical duties at the church presbytery, bookshop duty and selling the Malayan Catholic News, as the archdiocesan newspaper was called then.
At a time when the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults had not started, Legionaries helped prepare adults for baptism either in a meeting room in church or at catechumens’ homes and sometimes till late into the night. In 1969, there were very few volunteers to serve at the wakes of deceased parishioners, so Legionaries were also “asked to assist”, Mr Rozario said.
Mr Rozario, the third child in a family of three girls and five boys, clearly has no difficulty empathising with the people he reaches out to.
“My father was not working in the 1930s due to the recession and my mother was sickly, so our family depended on St Anthony Bread fund at St Joseph Church (Victoria Street) and the St Vincent De Paul Society for financial assistance.
“This experience brought me closer to my faith,” he shared.
After retiring from his job as principal clerk at Cable and Wireless at the age of 55, he served as secretary at Holy Family Church from 1984-2005. His work involved “preparing weekly church bulletins, organising meeting room bookings, taking Mass bookings and assisting priests”.
In 1997, he was given the papal Benemerenti award for his long service to the Legion of Mary and for his work with the parish.
According to Mr Rozario, “the Benemerenti is the highest honour presented to a lay person by the pope”.
Later in 2007, after he and his wife moved to Tampines, he started serving as Communion minister and funeral minister at the Church of the Holy Trinity.
In 2009, he became a member of the Night Prayer Ministry for wakes and a member of the funeral choir.
“Douglas has been the pillar of our praesidium because of his experience,” Mr Aloysius Chia, current president of Mother of Christ Praesidium, told CatholicNews. “He has guided us through our work.”
Mr Rozario’s wife, Marie, told CatholicNews: “Douglas is very committed to his work; that’s his nature. He has always had that type of commitment, dedication and love to serve the Lord.”
When asked what advice he would give to young people who wish to serve the Church, Mr Rozario said: “I would recommend that the younger people join a church ministry they can relate to and stick to it. There are the altar boys, youth ministry, RCIA, catechists and so on.”
And on his longtime church service, he shared, “I don’t expect any reward for what I do now but an eternal reward later.”
Mr Rozario has a son and daughter and seven grandchildren.
By Martin See
SERVICE TO THE CHURCH
Church of the Holy Family
1938-1983: Member of the church choir
1949-present: Member of the Legion of Mary
1954-1960: Served as the first treasurer of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Junior Curia), Legion of Mary
1960: Founder member of the Singapore Senatus, Legion of Mary
1968-1974: Founder member of Our Lady of the Island, East Curia, and also its first president
1976 -1987: Catechist, member of the animator/lector ministry
1981-2005: Communion minister
1984-2004: Funeral minister
Church of the Holy Trinity
2007-present: Communion minister, funeral minister
2009-present: Member of the Night Prayer Ministry
2009-present: Member of the funeral choir