Young French Pauline-Marie Jaricot, was inspired by her brother’s letters from the mission. The valued his work and sought out a way for lay people such as herself, so they too be of help to the mission.
Thus she appealed to her brother-in-law’s silk factory works. She encouraged them to offer a daily prayer together with a weekly donation of a sou (equivalent to a penny), towards the church’s global missionary work. Her first project was to send the meagre wages to her brother to ransom infants in China.
The number of people willing to give a helping hand grew and brought forward the birth of the Society for the Propagation of Faith in 1818. A meeting between the Bishops and Pauline took place where she insisted that monies collected be sent to where they were needed most, not just to one Society or mission. Thus it became a Universal Mission Aid Fund. The Society was approved by the Pope and became International in 1826.
She believed that basic religious missionary information should be communicated and thus she arranged the printing and distribution of these religious literature. By doing so, Pauline-Marie paved the way to the publication of the Annals which contains reports from various mission territories aimed at increasing awareness of the Society.
In 1922, to protect its assets from confiscation by a hostile government in France, the Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, brought it under papal protection, along with the Society for Missionary Childhood and the Society of St Peter Apostle. It is now located under the umbrella of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
The Society works with local Churches to provide an ordinary subsidy for the day to day running of the diocese and to offer spiritual healing and practical assistance to the communities with the greatest needs.
It supports the young Church by responding to requests to help build chapels and churches, pastoral centres, clinics and hospitals and to provide medications, pastoral care and emergency relief.
Assistance is also provided for lay catechists in terms of formation, remuneration, and resources. All aid is respectful of the dignity and self-esteem of the recipients with the eventual aim of encouraging and developing independence.