Two hundred years ago, a 23-year-old laywoman in Lyons, France, gathered a small circle of friends dedicated to supporting the missionary work of the Church.
Pauline Jaricot’s brother, Phileas, was studying to be a missionary priest, and she wanted to support the cause. She encouraged each friend to invite 10 more people to pray daily and make a weekly contribution of just one sous (a small denomination coin) to the missions.
This small network of friends grew into the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a global society that supports missionaries and mission dioceses around the world. The Society, the first of the Church’s four Pontifical Mission Societies, celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.
And on May 22, Jaricot was beatified in Lyons.
“Pauline Jaricot liked to say that the Church is missionary by nature and that therefore every baptized person has a mission; indeed, is a mission,” Pope Francis said in a message before her beatification.
Jaricot’s example reminds us that supporting worldwide missions can have effects at home, too, said Kim Specht, director of the archdiocesan Mission Office.
“One of the things that continues to awe me is how Pauline recognized the relationship of solidarity that is created through the support of the missions,” Specht wrote in a recent Mission Office newsletter. “It was not just about having people financially support missions and missionaries; it was also about revitalizing their faith.”
From a mission diocese to now
The Society for the Propagation of the Faith’s history in the Archdiocese of St. Louis goes all the way back to its beginning. Bishop Louis William Valentine DuBourg, appointed to lead the newly formed Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas (which included St. Louis and the rest of the Louisiana territory), traveled to Europe to ask for assistance for his expansive diocese. Among others, Bishop DuBourg met with Jaricot and her fellow members of what was then known as the Association for the Propagation of the Faith in Lyons, who agreed to distribute funds from their collections to the diocese each year.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis is not a mission diocese now, of course; instead of receiving funds from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Catholics contribute to the Society and other Pontifical Mission Societies through the archdiocesan Mission Office. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith now supports more than 1,100 dioceses around the world, the majority of which are in Africa and Asia.
In 2019 (the most recent data reported due to the international collection and distribution process), dioceses across the United States collected a little more than $33 million for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Contributions from the Archdiocese of St. Louis totaled $1,331,711, largely consisting of gifts from the Daily Worldmissionnaires, World Mission Sunday collection and bequests. These donations support catechists, diocesan structures, churches and chapels, religious communities, apostolic and social works, transportation and more in mission dioceses.
That year, the archdiocese collected an additional $12,851 for the Missionary Childhood Association and $85,010 for the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, two of the other Pontifical Mission Societies.
The Society for the Propagation of the Faith has a dedicated group of supporters in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The Daily Worldmissionnaires formed in 1953 after a World Mission Exhibition was held at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, showcasing the work of Catholic missions around the world. A group of men and women in the archdiocese wanted to become more involved in supporting the missions and formed the Daily Worldmissionnaires, inspired particularly by Jaricot’s original Society model.
Today, there are about 600 members of the Daily Worldmissionnaires in the archdiocese. Members pledge to support the Society for the Propagation of the Faith through special daily prayers and sacrifice in additional to financial contributions.
Kay Brillhart, a parishioner at St. John Paul II Parish in Affton, has been a member of the Daily Worldmissionnaries since the early 1990s. A friend invited her to a talk about Church missions throughout the world, and Brillhart was inspired to do whatever she could to support the missions from home.
Like Jaricot, mission work also hit close to home for Brillhart — a cousin of hers served as a priest in a mission diocese in Guatamala at the time. The daily prayers and sacrifices help her keep the work of the worldwide Church at the front of her mind, she said.
“(It’s important) to spread the Good News to people and places that might not know our Lord,” Brillhart said.
>> The Pontifical Mission Societies
Four organizations are designated as Pontifical Mission Societies at the service of the pope: the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter the Apostle and the Missionary Union. In 2022, the Pontifical Mission Societies celebrate:
• The 200th anniversary of the founding of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith
• The 150th anniversary of the birth of Blessed Paolo Manna, founder of the Missionary Union of the Clergy, now the Pontifical Missionary Union
• The 100th anniversary of Pope Pius XI’s motu proprio declaring the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Missionary Childhood Association and Society of St. Peter the Apostle “Pontifical”
Learn more about the Pontifical Mission Societies or scan QR code to the right: https://www.archstl.org/ mission-office/pontifical-mission-societies
Learn more about the archdiocesan Daily Worldmissionnaires: https://stlreview.com/39PuBhk
Watch “Heart of a Missionary,” a new documentary about the life of Pauline Jaricot: www.blessedpauline.org