It’s 1822. You’re in France, just after the French Revolution. Times are tough for the local Church, still suffering after years of persecution. But not as tough as the extreme poverty faced by missionaries in far-flung lands. They desperately need help. What can you do?
That was the situation faced by a young single woman, Pauline Jaricot (above). She was no Sister or Saint, but simply one person with a vision to help, the passion to act, and the enthusiasm to involve others.
From humble beginnings, the first Pontifical Mission Society was started: the Society for the Propagation of the Faith with the aim of supporting the worldwide work of missionaries where the need was greatest. It soon became the largest mission agency in the world and remains so today.
Twenty-one years later, Pauline’s vision inspired Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson to start a society to help abandoned children in China. This led to a global movement of children helping children and so Missionary Children was born—sometimes known as the Society of Holy Childhood.
Then in 1889, tragedy led a mother and daughter—Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard—to respond to the call for clergy to be trained in their own country and culture, to serve their own people. Nearly a century on this was still radical. Thus the Society of St Peter Apostle began in fervent missionary spirit.
That missionary spirit was not always active. As a missionary in Myanmar (then called Burma), Father Paolo Manna was saddened by the indifference of clergy and the small number of missionaries. So he started a Missionary Union to animate priests for mission, promote mission awareness and encourage prayer for mission. This was approved by Pope Benedict XV in 1916, and in 1956 was declared the Pontifical Missionary Union.
Now we recognise that all of us are called to Christ’s mission—to accept and share his message, life and love through word and action. It’s radical. It’s visionary.
Missio started through one woman’s vision that multiplied and inspired others. What’s your vision for mission?