PROPAGATION OF THE FAITH
The Society for the Propagation of the Faith was founded in Lyons, France, in 1822 by a young French laywoman, Pauline Jaricot. Inspired by stories she heard about missionary work in China, she felt called by the Lord to help the Catholic Church's worldwide missionary work. Pauline herself never traveled to the Missions, which, during her lifetime, consisted of the Missions in China — and young dioceses in the United States. Pauline gathered friends and workers in a family silk mill into "circles of ten," asking each person to pray daily for the Missions and sacrifice a penny-a-week (at that time, quite a large sacrifice!). From this idea emerged the Propagation of the Faith.
Today the General Fund of the Propagation of the Faith, which gathers gifts from Catholics all over the world — a concept that originated with Pauline Jaricot and her desire to help all the world's missions — is the basic means of support for the Catholic Church's worldwide Missions.
ST. PETER THE APOSTLE
In 1889, mother and daughter — Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard — answered a desperate plea for help from the Missions. The French missionary bishop of Nagazaki, Japan wrote to the two women asking for help to keep his seminary open because he had run out of the funds necessary to help educate these young men to serve their people as priests. The bishop just did not have the funds to train these young Japanese men whom, he judged, would make excellent priests. The Bigards came to his assistance and started a small group for this purpose in their native Caen, France. From these humble beginnings emerged the Society of St. Peter Apostle. Within five years of sending their first donation to Japan, the Bigards, and those whom they enlisted to help, were sending funds to seminaries in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Korea and China. The goal of the Society of St. Peter then and now has been to invite individuals to support the education of candidates for the Catholic priesthood in the Developing World and to support the formation of men and women candidates for the Religious life in the Missions. In its first year, the Society of St. Peter Apostle sent help for some 2,700 seminarians in the Missions. Today, some 30,000 major seminarians, mostly in Africa and Asia, receive an annual subsidy of $700 per student.
In 1916, Father Paolo Manna, a PIME missionary serving in Myanmar (then called Burma), envisioned an organization that would help him to share the spiritual graces he had received through his work in bringing the "Good News" of Christ to others. He wanted to encourage those already engaged in the work of the Church to support the work of the Missions — and perhaps to become missionaries themselves. And so, he formed the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
Today, this spiritual apostolate started by this Italian missionary continues to address itself to those called to bring Catholics to a better understanding of their baptismal responsibility for the church’s missionary work — to priests, Religious, seminarians, pastoral leaders and those engaged in catechesis and religious education.
In fact, the success of the efforts of the three other missionary societies is linked to the vitality of the Missionary Union, because it is through this work that the missionary spirit –– a spirit of prayer and generous sacrifice – is developed and nurtured. Animators inspiring other animators to carry out the baptismal mandate to "go to all nations and proclaim the 'Good News'" is what inspires so many men and women, Religious and lay to witness and share their faith with so many more.
Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson was much in demand. Many French bishops who were serving as missionaries in the United States – the “Missions” of his day – wanted this bishop of Nancy in France to visit the young U.S. churches and then return home to encourage interest and support for their work.
Continuing his travels, Bishop Forbin-Janson also visited New Orleans and Baltimore, as well as Canada, all on horseback. He preached retreats, celebrated Masses for congregations packed into small churches and chapels, and gathered children for religious instruction. Two years later, he returned to France.
Once home he met an old friend – Pauline Jaricot – who had founded the Society that was helping to support the missionary efforts he had seen firsthand in the United States. Bishop Forbin-Janson had returned home determined to “arouse great interest for the useful work of the Propagation of the Faith.”
During a conversation between these two friends in 1843, Bishop Forbin-Janson shared his own longtime dream – to help the children of the Missions. Like Pauline, he saw the “riches” of the poor mission churches of his day. And he was convinced that though weak and needing care, children rich in faith and love were capable of playing their own part in the Church’s mission – and of even stirring adults to the same generous missionary spirit.
Some time during the course of their talk, the Holy Childhood Association (HCA) was born. Bishop Forbin-Janson started appealing to the children of France to reach out – in faith and love – to help the children of the Missions of our country and China.
Today, HCA continues to follow the vision of Bishop Forbin-Janson – “children helping children.” After learning about the great needs of the world’s poorest children, young people are invited to pray and to offer financial help so that children in the Missions today may know Christ and experience His love and care.