|2.1 The Pontifical Association for the propagation of faith (APF)
The APF was founded in Lyons, France in 1822 by a young French woman, Pauline Jaricot. She began this society by persuading local factory workers to support the mission by giving a farthing a week.
From the onset it was clear that the help should be shared out to all the missions of the world especially the poorest and the most in need. To this day the APF guarantees an equal distribution of funds according to the needs of each local church.
A magazine, The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, was also launched in 1822 (the forerunner of our Mission Today), to inform members of events and progress in the mission and encourage their continued spiritual and financial support.
A century later when the organization was established in almost every country of the world, Pope Pius XI made it the official mission funding society for the Catholic Church.
2.2 The Pontifical Society of St Peter the Apostle (SPA)
The SPA began 1888 with a letter written by a desperate missionary bishop, Mgr Cousin, of Nagasaki in Japan, to Stephanie Bigard and her daughter Jeanne in France. Due to lack of funds the bishop was turning away young men who were answering God’s call and were eager to join the seminary. Stephanie and Jeanne agreed to help. They appealed to friends and it was through these appeals that the Society of St. Peter the Apostle was born.
Despite suspicion and hostility from bishops and clergy alike, the work of the society grew until within four years it attracted the notice of Pope Leo XIII, who was greatly interested in promoting the growth of the local clergy in the missions.
Armed with the Pope’s blessing, the two women travelled throughout France to promote the society and eventually established a central office in Paris. The anti-clerical government refused the society’s legal recognition, so within a year they moved to Switzerland. The work and worry took its toll and in 1903 Stephanie died at the age of 69. Jeanne became depressed and realising that she could no longer give the society the support it required, she resigned. She died two years later at the age of 75.
In 1922, Pope Pius XI placed the society under papal patronage and gave it the task of supporting every seminary in the missionary world. Most of the young churches in the developing countries have faith but often material poverty and hardship mean they are not able to train the many young men and women who want to become priests and religious at the service of God and their communities.
Jeanne Bigard’s Society of St. Peter the Apostles in now responsible for the financing and the training of all these young people and for building their seminaries and novitiates. This is an impossible task without adequate funding.
The Society worldwide now supports over 30,000 major seminarians and 10,000 religious. The SPA continues to bring Christian missionaries throughout the world in communion with each other and tries to ensure that good vocations are not turned away because of lack of financial resources. The SPA also enables us to take up our duty as missionaries and followers of Christ to make both spiritual and financial sacrifices, continuing the work begun by a young woman over 100 years ago.
Pope John Paul II stressed that the work of the society is more important now than ever before. He appealed for renewed support at a time when vocations are increasing at an encouraging rate in the mission churches.
2.3 The Pontifical society of the Holy Childhood- Mission Together (MT)
Mission Together under its original name Holy Childhood was founded by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson. This Society encourages children to be concerned with mission through prayer, learning activities and sharing. Through the financial contribution of children it carries out educational, medical and welfare projects in the poorest areas of the world. The society is universal in character and attends to the needs of all without favouritism. It exemplifies the universal nature of the Catholic Church. Holy Childhood is the church’s official charity for children’s mission overseas. It unique motto is ‘Children helping children’.
2.4 The Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU)
This Union was founded in 1916 by Paolo Manna, an Italian PIME missionary serving in Myanmar (then called Burma). It was an organisation 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.
The union was recognised by Pope Benedict XV on 31 October 1916. On the 28 October 1956, Pope Pius XII conferred the title ‘Pontifical’ on the Union. It was therefore renamed the ‘Pontifical Missionary Union of Clergy, Religious and Consecrated Laity’, more simply as ‘Pontifical Missionary Union’ (PMU) Fr. Paolo Manna died on 15 September 1952 and he was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II on November 4, 2001.
Today this spiritual apostolate, started by this Italian missionary, continues to address itself to those called to bring Catholics to better understanding of their baptismal responsibility for the churches missionary work – priests, religious, seminarians, pastoral leaders and those engaged in catechesis and religious education.
In many countries, the success of the three other missionary societies is linked to the vitality of the Missionary Union. It is through work that the missionary spirit of prayer and generous sacrifice is developed and nurtured. The baptismal mandate promoted by the PMU, 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. The PMU publishes the Missionary review Mission Outlook to encourage the interest of priests, religious and laity in the missionary work of the church and in the development of the younger churches.
The PMU serves to:
- Promote missionary awareness among seminarians, priests, religious and laity also through an understanding of mission theology
- Encourage a greater understanding and support for the church’s worldwide mission by promoting the other Pontifical Mission
- Foster Christian unity so that they may be so perfect in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me…(Jn 17:23)
- Enable the whole church to be ‘missionary’ and its people to see their own history in a worldwide perspective, in other to think and act on a worldwide level.
- Encourage prayer for the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest (Mt 9:37-38).
- Celebrate the Missionary feasts: Lent of prayer and solidarity; missionary October with World Mission Sunday; St. Francis Xavier, St Teresa of the Child Jesus, World day of the sick, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.