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.
Faced with this situation, a young single woman, Pauline Jaricot had a vision to help, the passion to act, and the enthusiasm to involve others. And so from humble beginnings, the first Pontifical Mission Society was started: the Society for the Propagation of the Faith – to support 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. This brought about the birth of Children’s Mission, 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.
Yet the missionary spirit so vividly known today, was not always this 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.
Nowadays all four missionary visions are joined under one umbrella: Missio, which recognises 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 forms Maltese for mission and raises funds for mission – in Malta and around the world. This enables heroic missionaries to reach out to help children and communities in need, and provide vital training for seminarians and other young church leaders.
Missio Malta operates in over 160 countries to support initiatives in 1100 dioceses. Grassroots needs are identified by local Catholics, to give people the opportunity for a full, enriched life – physically and spiritually – regardless of race, stigma, religion or gender.