Pontifical Mission Societies

Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS)

1.0 What is the meaning of PMS?
PMS is the acronym of Pontifical Mission Societies

2.0 What are the components of PMS?
The Pontifical Mission Societies comprise the following:

  • Association for the Propagation of Faith (APF)
  • Society of St. Peter the Apostle (SPA)
  • Holy Childhood- Mission Together (MT)
  • The Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU)

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.

3.0 The Mission Statement of PMS
The Pontifical Missionary Societies (PMS) comprise the APF, SPA, MT, and the PMU. Together these societies form the Catholic Church’s official support organisation for the spreading of the Gospel in the world, especially in countries where the church is new, young or poor.
The principal activities of the PMS are to promote awareness of, and raise funds for, the worldwide missionary and pastoral work of the church.
Whilst each society has its unique charism and focus, they share these values:

  • They witness and share the Gospel message of God’s unconditional acceptance and love for all;
  • Fidelity to the spirit of the founders by responding with openness and consideration to the request of the Christian faithful worldwide;
  • Offering every Christian the opportunity to reach out to others within the Good News of Jesus Christ, and learn from each other the true meaning of life in Christ;
  • The spiritual, practical and material support for faith communities, enabling them to become self-sufficient, and flourish in their own right.
To accomplish this, the PMS:
  • Fosters the growth of missionary awareness, encouraging prayer and cooperation in the whole church;
  • Works through parishes, schools and other catholic institutions nationwide to promote the work of the PMS;
  • Encouraging participation in the mission of the church through prayer, generous sacrifice voluntary work and financial support of mission churches;
  • Guarantees an effective collection of funds in each diocese throughout the world;
  • Distribute these funds directly to local bishops in every mission diocese in the world, according to the specific needs that they may have identified;
  • Practices the highest standard of accountability and transparency towards donors, recipients and all those involved in working for the PMS.

4.0 Beneficiaries
The PMS is established in 1,069 mission dioceses in 159 countries. The Society world wide now supports over 30,000 major seminarians and 10,000 religious. 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.

5.0 Funding
It is important to understand that the PMS does not receive funds from governments or EU sources and does not keep investments. The major source of funding is from the universal church collections:

  • World Mission Sunday for the APF
  • Christmas for the Holy Childhood
  • Vocation Sunday for St. Peter the Apostle
  • Good Friday for the Holy Land
  • Ss. Peter and Paul Peter’s Pence

However these times for the universal church collections could be spread over a period of time to ensure meaningful church collections as we often receive donation from the PMS a hundred fold.

It is important to note that Peter’s pence and the Holy Land are not, strictly speaking part of the PMS. The Vatican insists on these collections to support the church in the Holy Land and the Pope’s charitable works in the world.

6.0 Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Sierra Leone and The Gambia
The head office for the PMS is, as yet, at Santano house, 10 Howe Street in Freetown. Fr. Henry Aruna is the National Director of PMS for Sierra Leone and The Gambia. According to the approved statutes of the Society each diocese is to appoint a priest/Religious to coordinate the activities of the PMS at the diocesan level. Parish priests and their assistants are responsible for the promotion and animation of the societies in the parish and communities in their pastoral care. It is very important therefore that the seminarians acquire information about the activities of the PMS so that they would in the future cooperate in promoting and animating PMS in their parishes and communities.

7.0 Conclusion
The Pontifical Mission Societies consists of APF, SPA, MT and PMU. Since 1922, it has been the Catholic Church’s official instruments for the spreading of the Gospel in the world, especially in countries where the church is new, young or poor. The Societies aim to foster the growth of missionary awareness, prayer and cooperation in the whole church – to bring Christ to the nations.

Note that the information presented on PMS here is the bare minimum and it is intended to provoke interest in the PMS among the Catholic Faithful, and especially priest, religious and seminarians. It is hoped therefore that readers would look for more information on the PMS and its relevance to the church’s mission of evangelization. One such important source of information on the PMS is the journal Omnis Terra published by the PMU. It is hoped that better information about the PMS would enable us to promote it and also to contribute generously to its fund-raising activities in our parishes and our catholic communities.

Fr. Henry Aruna
National Director
Pontifical Mission Societies
Sierra Leone and the Gambia
10 Howe Street, Freetown
E-mail: pmssleonegambia20@yahoo.com