It all started by a simple letter from a desperate Bishop of Nagasaki, Jules-Alphonse Cousin, asking for help. He was responsible for the educational formation of youths who aspired to become priests. Bishop Cousin wrote to two French women, Mme Stephanie Bigard and her daughter Jeanne, suggesting that they could support these youths.
They decided to focus all the life and resources to aid youths around the world with the necessary funding for their formation. Thus the Bigards donated all of their considerable fortune to this cause and travelled throughout France to promote the work of the Society.
Despite suspicion and hostility from the bishops and clergy alike, the SPA was approved by the Pope in 1890, and it too became a Pontifical Mission Society in 1922. The anti-clerical goverment refused the Social legal recognition which forced the Bigards to move to Swizerland.
The society’s work is still very active today, and it is responsible for financing building of seminars and novitiates. The Saint Pieter Apostile trains young men and women in their native country to serve their people as religious sisters, brothers, or priests. The Society worldwide now supports over 30,000 major seminarians and 10,000 religious. The SPA continues to bring Christians missionaries throughout the world in communion with each other and tries to ensure that good vocations are not turned away through lack of finacila resources.