The Second Vatican Council in the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes Divinitus states: “Since the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization the fundamental task of the people of God, this sacred Synod invites all to undertake a profound interior renewal so that being vitally conscious of their responsibility for the spread of the Gospel they might play their part in missionary work among the nations” (no. 35).
This universal mandate to do missionary work is taken up directly by men and women, including clergy, religious and laity, serving as missionaries. However, other world missionary work does not exhaust the possibilities of missionary participation of all the people of God, and all baptized Catholics are called to support the missions as part of the body of Christ.
Missions, at home and throughout the world, are in need of our prayerful support. St. Thérèse of Lisieux realized that the best service she could give was her prayer for the missions. As a result, she has been declared patron saint for the missions.
The missions are also in need of our financial support. One way that the Church mandates support for the missions is for each diocese to have a program to support the missions (Code of Canon Law, canon 791).
Pontifical Mission Societies
Propagation of the Faith
Founded by the Venerable Pauline Jaricot, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith seeks prayer and sacrifice for the world’s Missions, now some 1,150 dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and remote regions of Latin America. Help is offered for pastoral and evangelizing programs, for catechists and catechetical work, to build churches and chapels, for the work of Religious communities in health care and education, and for communication and transportation needs.
The very first collection of the Propagation of the Faith in 1822 supported the vast diocese of Louisiana, which then extended from the Florida Keys to Canada, as well as the missions of Kentucky and China.
Missionary Childhood Association
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.
In 1839, Bishop Forbin-Janson did just that, sailing across the ocean and landing in New York, where he was welcomed with open arms by Bishop John Dubois. “Poor New York,” he wrote to Catholics back in France, “there is not yet a minor or major seminary… and this diocese is larger than all of England. There are already 200,000 Catholics, with the City of New York having about 24,000. Here everything is to be done for the sake of religion.”
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.
Sometime during the course of their talk, the Holy Childhood Association (HCA) was born. We’re presently changing the association’s name to Missionary Childhood Association (MCA). 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, MCA 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.
Society of St. Peter 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.
Missionary Union of Priests and Religious
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.
World Mission Rosary
In February of 1951, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith from 1950 to 1966), in a radio address (The Catholic Hour), inaugurated a World Mission Rosary.
Each decade of that World Mission Rosary calls to mind an area where the Church continues her evangelizing mission: green for the forests and grasslands of Africa; blue for the ocean surrounding the islands of the Pacific; white symbolizing Europe, the seat of the Holy Father, shepherd of the world; red calling to mind the fire of faith that brought missionaries to the Americas and yellow, the morning light of the East, for ASIA.
Pope John Paul II encouraged everyone to intensify your praying of the Rosary… “to obtain from the Lord those graces that the Church and humanity especially need.”
The World Mission Rosary is available through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith for a suggested offering of $11 each (includes an information / prayer booklet). Children’s Rosaries are also available for a suggested offering of $5 each. There is no charge for shipping. To order Rosaries using a major credit card, visit the Pontifical Mission Societies, USA, online donation site by clicking here.