PONTIFICAL SOCIETY OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE
The Society of Saint Peter collaborates in the growth of the young churches through financial support for building new seminaries and formation programs for the new local priests, religious and sisters.
In 1889, mother and daughter — Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard — answered a desperate plea for help from the mission. 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 the 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 mission. In its first year, the Society of St. Peter Apostle sent help for some 2,700 seminarians in the mission. Today, some 30,000 major seminarians, mostly in Africa and Asia, receive an annual subsidy from the Society.
With the responsibility to support for the formation of local clergy and religious in mission dioceses – the young churches, the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle or POSPA was founded officially in 1889 in the city of Caen, France. In 1920, it came under Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith by order of Pope Benedict XV. It was declared “pontifical” in 1922. In 1965, Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Letter Benignissimus Deus ordered that the POSPA be made known and spread especially among students of the secondary schools of the whole Catholic world.
Founded to awaken the Christian people to the awareness of the needs of the formation of local clergy in the mission countries, and invite them to spiritually and materially collaborate to the preparation of candidates to priesthood and religious life, the following are its objectives:
- To use spiritual means, especially prayer and sacrifice to beg “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
- To make Christians aware of the need for growth in the number of vocations and the importance of formation of local clergy in the Churches in the mission territories, so that subsequently they may be sent to collaborate in other sister churches.
- To contribute towards the growth of clergy in Churches in mission territories.
- To assist in the formation of male and female candidates for consecrated life, in the Churches of mission territories.
In the Philippines the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul in June is allotted as St. Peter the Apostle Sunday.