The San Francisco Senatus
On November 27, 1931, the first Legion of Mary praesidium in the United States composed of all men was formed in Raton, New Mexico. The Legion spread westward through the envoyship of Mary Duffy. During her time of service various councils were formed in California. In 1933, two years after the first praesidium was formed in New Mexico, the first praesidium was established in the Archdiocese of San Francisco at Saint Monica Parish, thanks to Father William Cantwell, its pastor.
The San Francisco Curia and San Francisco Comitium - The first praesidium at Saint Monica, Our Lady of Perpetual Help formed on November 14, 1933 was composed entirely of women. Fr. Cantwell then formed a second praesidium, this time composed of all men, named Queen of the Apostles. This was followed by a junior praesidium, Our Lady of Lourdes. Father Cantwell’s love for the Legion of Mary attracted more parishes in San Francisco to follow suit. Thus, praesidia were formed at Saint Agnes Parish (Our Lady of the Annunciation, March 19, 1936) and Our Lady of the Rosary (founded on May 5, 1936). Extension works of the Saint Agnes legionaries resulted in the formation of a praesidium on January 28, 1937 at Most Holy Redeemer Parish.
With the establishment of these praesidia, the San Francisco Curia was formed and held its first meeting on June 10, 1937. Mary Duffy, the Legion envoy to the US, was present and presided the first meeting of the San Francisco Curia. The first president of the San Francisco Curia was Mrs. Hicklin. Four years later, the San Francisco Curia was raised to the status of a Comitium and held its first meeting in May 4, 1941. This was made possible due to the successful extension of the Legion in the East Bay, under the leadership of Father John Kelly, when in 1941, the Alameda County Curia was formed.
During the 1940’s there were approximately 33 praesidia directly attached to the San Francisco Comitium and one Curia, the Alameda County Curia. The praesidia were spread out throughout the Archdiocese of San Francisco which at that time included 13 counties around the Bay Area and the Peninsula, Oakland, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton, Gilroy and Contra Costa. In 1957, the Stockton Curia was formed and was followed by the establishment of the Contra Costa-Solano Curia in 1959.
The San Francisco Comitium up until 1959 directly corresponded with the Concilium Legionis in Ireland. However, in February of the same year, former president and the late Mary Foudy and Oakland Curia president Vicky Cotter attended a meeting of the Los Angeles Senatus. Though not clearly established in our historical files we can surmise that this initial meeting in Los Angeles was effectively the initial period the San Francisco Comitium began reporting to the Los Angeles Senatus. From then until its official elevation and formation as a Senatus, the SF Comitium was under the direct supervision of the Los Angeles Senatus. To them, we owe a great debt of gratitude for their guidance and especially for the wealth of Legionary knowledge we received from its late president, Brother William Thompson.
The first set of SF Senatus Officers (L to R) - Dave Marten, (VP); Tessie Velicaria (Secretary); Fr. Lawrence Goode (Spiritual Director); Ray Frost (President) and Vic Davo (Treasurer)
San Francisco Comitium Elevated to Senatus
In the year 2004, the San Francisco Senatus under the presidency of Brother Raymond Frost, received from the president of Concilium Legionis Mariae in Dublin Sile Ni Chochlain with the very good news that would change our history forever. The San Francisco Comitium was elevated as a Senatus, the highest-ranking council after the Concilium Legionis in Ireland. With that news came the definition of its territorial boundaries expanded the scope of its responsibility. In addition to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, the new territorial and diocesan boundaries now include: in the state of California: Diocese of San Jose (San Jose Comitium), Diocese of Sacramento (Sacramento Comitium and the Northwest Coast Korean Comitium), Diocese of Oakland (Oakland Comitium), Diocese of Stockton (Stockton Comitium), Diocese of Monterey (Monterey Curia, formerly Salinas Curia); in the state of Oregon: Diocese of Portland (Portland Curia); in the state of Washington: Archdiocese of Seattle (Seattle Comitium); in the state of Utah: Diocese of Salt Lake City (Utah Curia); in the state of Nevada: Diocese of Reno (there are two directly attached praesidia to the Senatus); in the state of Alaska: Diocese of Fairbanks, Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau (Anchorage Curia, and directly attached praesidia from Fairbanks and Ketchikan); ): in the state of Idaho: Diocese of Boise (Idaho Curia).
In May 2004 in order to learn from Concilium officers the duties and practices required of Senatus officers, Brother Raymond Frost President and Brother David Marten, Vice-President traveled to Dublin to meet with Concilium officers and participated at the monthly Concilium meeting and had the opportunity to visit the home and grave of Frank Duff.
In July 2006 four of the San Francisco Senatus officers (Brother Dave Marten, Brother William Wehrmeister, Sister Tessie Velicaria and Brother John Dymond) participated in a conference for officers of American councils at the Concilium Legionis Headquarters in Dublin Ireland and met with our Concilium correspondent and other Legion of Mary officials. As a new Council, the San Francisco Senatus was not without challenges. As the city embraced and welcomed a more diverse population of immigrants, the Catholic landscape seemed to have hit rough edges as the Catholic forerunners became elderly with a good number of younger generation Catholics moving out from the city looking to find a more viable and affordable living situation. This has made somewhat more difficult for Legion of Mary to replace active members who have grown older and now have retired from their Church activities.
Recent Historical Highlights (2005 - 2022)
During the first seventeen years following its elevation to a a higher council, the San Francisco Senatus, inspired by Fr. Goode's leadership and words of wisdom, had taken on new challenges and activities while strengthening and continuing to engage intensely in heroic works of the Legion. The San Francisco Senatus threaded unchartered territories never before in its existence of many years - organizing Archdiocesan-wide events such as the Year of Saint Paul Conference in 2009 with Mr. Steve Ray, a well known speaker, apologist and Catholic TV personality; the Rosary Rally at Civic Center Plaza in 2011, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Father Patrick Peyton's Rally in 1961 at the San Francisco Polo grounds. Eleven years later (2022), to this day, the San Francisco Senatus continues to be part the leadership and planning committee of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Annual Rosary Crusade. That same year, the San Francisco Senatus joined millions of Legionaries worldwide in celebration of its 90th Anniversary with a special Mass and reception at Saint Anne's Church in San Francisco. It was also around this time in its history that Fr. Goode, Spiritual Director advised its current board of officers to "think like a Senatus."
Thus, in the summer of 2012, the San Francisco Senatus held its first annual Legion of Mary Conference at Our Lady of Peace Church in Santa Clara, CA and was attended by at least 250 legion members mostly from Northern California. The following year until 2019, this annual Legion Conference was held at a bigger venue, the Santa Clara Convention Center, and has been attended by more than 600 Legion members from Northern California and beyond. In 2017, Bro. Raymond and Sis. Annette Mulroney of the Concilium Legionis in Ireland attended the annual conference as our guest speakers. This was the special centenary celebration of the Apparition at Fatima. Because of the 2020 pandemic and the lock-down, the Annual Santa Clara Conference was cancelled, however, in its place was a very successful virtual conference attended by at least 400 Legion members and was graced by the 'virtual presence' of Sis. Maureen McManus and Bro. Andrew Cooke former and current correspondence of the Concilium Legionis to the San Francisco Senatus.
The current officers of the San Francisco Senatus at its Monthly Council Meeting (March 12, 2022) at Saint Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, CA. From (L-R) - Sis. Emy Pasion (Assistant Secretary), Sis. Carmen Perlas (VP), Sist Tessie Velicaria (Secretary), Bro. Dave Marten (Asst. Treasurer). Bro. Raymond Frost (President), Fr. Lawrence Goode (Spiritual Director) and Bro. Ando Perlas (Treasurer).