The Propagation of the Faith, Missionary Children (Holy Childhood) and St Peter the Apostle societies each received the official title of 'Pontifical' work in 1922, and their central administration was transferred to Rome. Missionary Union was added in 1956


The Pontifical Mission Societies have national offices in more than 120 countries. Today, this 'family' of mission societies is the Church’s primary means to inform Catholics about her worldwide missionary work and encourage their active participation in those efforts, through prayer and sacrifice.


Almost two centuries after our story began, it continues—a story of all of us together as 'one family in mission' committed to the worldwide mission of Jesus.

Propagation of the Faith

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith was founded upon the insight and initiative of a young French laywomen, Pauline Marie Jaricot. Pauline was committed to the formation of a missionary conscientiousness’ in the Christians in order to aid the Church in its task of preaching the Gospel and establishing it in areas of the world where it had not been before. She saw the renewal of the Church in France following the Revolution was linked with a renewed passion for the missions. 

Pauline Jaricot was born into a wealthy family in Lyon, France in 1799.  She could have lived a life of privilege but instead committed herself to raising funds and awareness for the world missions.  As a teenager she appealed to girls who were working in her brother-in-law’s factory to make a contribution of one penny a week in order to support abandoned children in China.  Soon others


joined to help support the missions.  In 1822 The Society for the Propagation of the Faith began. In its first year Pauline also began printing and circulating information about the work of missionaries. This increased interest in the work of the society.

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith grew to become the universal fundraising organisation for all Catholic missions. Pauline Jaricot’s life was one driven by concern for the missions and the poor. She died in 1862.

St Peter the Apostle

The Society of St Peter the Apostle was founded in Cain, France in 1889 by two laywomen Jeanne Bigard and her mother Stephanie. These women overcame personal tragedies in their lives and dedicated themselves working for the missions. In 1888, the Bigards were approached by a French missionary working in Kyoto, Japan who asked for their assistance to build a Church. They sold
some of their possessions and raised enough funds to complete the building of the Church. A year later, the Bishop of Nagasaki turned to them for assistance and support of his seminarians.  The St Peter the Apostle Society was born—a society that supported and promoted the formation of local clergy in the missions.

The Bigards travelled throughout France promoting the work of the society.  In


1922 Pope Pius XI placed it under Papal patronage and gave it the task of supporting seminaries in mission dioceses—the young churches.

It is within young churches that the Church is most active and growing. They have the faith, but lack the material resources to train many men and women who wish to become priests and religious to serve the Church in their communities. The Society of St Peter the Apostle trains young men and women in their own country and culture to serve their people as religious sisters, brothers, or priests. Also assisted in their formation and training of those catechists who have been chosen to be teachers and formators of the catechists in their country.

Missionary Children

The Holy Childhood Association—now known in Scotland as Missionary Children—was founded in France in 1843 by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson. Its purpose is to encourage all children to be aware of the needs of children living in mission dioceses throughout the world. Bishop de Forbin-Janson always
had a keen interest in the missions. He was a great preacher and travelled throughout France preaching the Gospel. He received letters from missionaries in China requesting his financial help to save starving and abandoned babies. He did not know how to raise these funds so he met with Pauline Jaricot who had already began her work to raise funds for mission dioceses. She advised him that no one could understand the needs of children better than children. She gave him the idea to start a children’s charity.

In 1843, he called upon the children of France to help save the children of China.


He asked them to become Missionary Children, helping to spread the Good News. He asked them to say a Hail Mary every day and give a small coin every month to help feed the Chinese children.


Their motto was 'Children helping Children,' which is still used to this day. The French children took up this great work and from then on the work of missionary children has spread across the world. Today it is in 120 countries and
helps make Jesus known to children all over the world. Under its banner 'Children helping Children,' funds raised through schools are directed towards self-help programs involving the building of schools, the provision of health
and nutrition programs and medications, school fees, and teaching and learning resources.


Children in communities, orphanages, homes for the disabled, refugees, and those living on the streets are assisted by the generosity of children who wish to make the love of Jesus known everywhere.

Missionary Union

The most recent of the Pontifical Mission Societies was founded by Fr Paolo Manna in 1917 in Italy. Fr Manna began by encouraging those already
engaged in the work of the Church to support the work of the missions and
to perhaps become missionaries themselves. To this end, he founded the Missionary Union of Clergy to raise enthusiasm among priests to promote awareness of the missions and to encourage prayer for them. It was hoped
that these leaders within the Church (the clergy) would inspire the laity to pray for the success of evangelisation, and to spread of the Good News throughout the world.


It was in 1956 that Pope Pius XII included the Missionary Union as one of the Pontifical Missions.