Fr Jerry Browne

Welcome to the Pontifical Mission SOcieties

2022 is a special year for the Pontifical Mission Societies, with a number of different celebrations taking place. It is 200 years since the establishment of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the 100th anniversary of the designation of the four societies, Propagation of the Faith, Holy Childhood, St Peter the Apostle and Missionary Union, as pontifical. 

On the 22nd May, Pauline Marie Jaricot, the foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the LIving Rosary Movement will be beatified in Lyon, France, the place of her birth. 

This year, the General Assembly, the annual gathering of the 120 National Directors from around the world will take place in Lyon, France, to coincide with the beatification of our foundress.  

In this blog we will take a brief look at Pauline’s story and the work that she began, including the The Living Rosary. The Living Rosary involves inviting people to form a group of fifteens members to say a decade of the rosary every day. At that time a Rosary had 15 decades. The idea was that as each person prayed the rosary for the intentions of the pope and the evangelisation of the world, they would be in spiritual communion with one another,supporting one another in prayer. This brought about a renewal of the rosary prayer, which is based on meditations on the life of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel. By the time Pauline Jaricot died, there were more than two million devotees of the Living Rosary in France alone, not to mention the countless others in countries around the world. What a great way of participating in the mission of the church and the work of evangelisation. Please consider starting a rosary group in your area by inviting 20 people to pray a decade of the rosary every day. Please also consider praying a novena for the nine days prior to the beatification of Pauline Jaricot, beginning on the 14th May 2022. 

Pauline Jaricot | 1799 ~ 1862 Foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith

Pauline’s Story Begins… 

Baptized Marie Pauline Jaricot on the day of her birth (July 22, 1799), she was the last child born to Antoine and Jeanne Jaricot in Lyon, Frances. The couple had seven children, including son, Phileas, who was born two years earlier, on February 2, 1797. Phileas would be very influential in Pauline’s life – nurturing her love for the Missions.

Pauline wrote of her parents: “Happy are those who have received from their parents the first seeds of faith…. Be praised Lord, for giving me a just man for a father and a virtuous and charitable woman as a mother.” 

Pauline’s family were silk merchants in her home town, Lyon, France. While the early years of her childhood were marked by the exclusive society life of Lyon, something happened in her teenager years that would open her heart to the whole world. 

A Vision for the Missions… 

At the age of 15, Pauline suffered a bad fall. Not long after that, her beloved mother died. It took Pauline many months to recover, emotionally and physically. When she did, she resumed her social life, but with less enthusiasm than before. Her heart, she wrote at this time, was “made for the whole world.” “If only I could love without measure,” she observed, “without end.” 

She longed to help the Missions – a desire nurtured by her brother Phileas, who was preparing for the priesthood and who told Pauline all about the work and witness of missionaries. Pauline saw this as her vocation – to become a missionary of the love of God. She came to believe that “to truly help others is to bring them to God.” 

One day while at prayer, 18-year-old Pauline had a vision of two lamps. One had no oil; the other was overflowing and from its abundance poured oil into the empty lamp. To Pauline, the drained lamp signified the faith in her native France, still reeling from the turbulence of the French Revolution. The full lamp was the great faith of Catholics in the Missions – especially in the New World. By aiding the faith of the young new country, Pauline knew that seeds planted would grow and bear much fruit. 

So she came up with a plan to support missionaries. She gathered workers in her family’s silk factory into “circles of 10.” Everyone in the group pledged to pray daily for the Missions and to offer each week a sou, the equivalent of a penny. Each member of the group then found 10 friends to do the same. Even in the face of opposition from parish priests in Lyon, Pauline remained steadfast. Within a year, she had 500 workers enrolled; soon there would be 2,000. 

As a child, Pauline had in fact dreamed of building such support for the Missions: “Oh! I’d love to have a well of gold to give some to all the unfortunate, so

that there would not be any more poor people at all and that no one would cry anymore.” 

Pauline’s successful efforts were the main thrust behind the formation of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. She was “the match that lit the fire.” But there was a struggle – like with all new initiatives – to control what was quickly becoming a source of strength and hope for the missionary Church. At one point, Pauline was side-lined, and she struggled to ensure that what the Lord had inspired her to set in motion, would come fully to life. 

Despite these setbacks, by 1922 the Society for the Propagation of the Faith – and three other societies established to help the Missions, The Society of Holy Childhood, the Society of St Peter the Apostle, and the Society of Missionary Union,  – became Pontifical, and as such fell under the direction of Pope. 

Pauline’s vision of two lamps is still valid today, as the vibrant faith in mission countries inspires and deepens the faith of others. 

Suffering for a Loving, Generous Heart… 

Shortly after the foundation of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Pauline established the Association of the Living Rosary; again her method was to form “circles” which would reach out to form new groups. Another project, to help working class poor, caused Pauline to fall into debt – in part due to the unscrupulous nature of those involved in the effort with her. And yet, her prayer was: “My God forgive them and, in the degree that they have showered me with sufferings, heap blessings upon them.” 

The Curé of Ars, her spiritual director for many years, made this public tribute to Pauline: “I know someone who knows how to accept the Cross, and a heavy Cross, and how to bear it with love! It is Mademoiselle Jaricot.” 

One writer, Father Charles Dollen, wrote in a biography about her: “The theology of the Cross came alive for her… More and more she identified with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, loving, suffering, atoning.” 

Pauline died on January 9, 1862; the prayer found after her death, written in her own hand, ended with these words: “Mary, O my Mother, I am Thine!” 

In 1963, 100 years after her death, Pope John XXIII signed the decree which proclaimed the virtues of Pauline Jaricot, declaring her “venerable.” He wrote: “It was she who thought of the society, who conceived it, and made it an organized reality.” 

On May 26, 2020, Pope Francis authorized the publication of the decree recognizing the miracle attributed to her intercession opening the path to her beatification.

The miracle approved by the decree of Pope Francis took place in 2012, on the 150th anniversary of Pauline’s birth. Three-year-old Mayline Tran became unconscious due to suffocation caused by food. The little girl was hospitalised and considered dead, but the family refused to stop artificial life assistance and began a novena to Pauline Jaricot. Shortly thereafter, the little girl woke up and, against all hope, completely recovered.

The beatification ceremony will take place during the General Assembly of the national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies which has been relocated from Rome to Lyon where Pauline lived.