Society for the Propagation of the Faith foundress is example of worldwide missionary vision

Pauline-Marie Jaricot was the daughter of an aristocratic family in 19th-century Lyons, France. After suffering a bad fall at the age of 15, she experienced an inner conversion, in which she came upon the realization that her heart was to be "made for the whole world."

Seeking out a better understanding of what this meant, Jaricot received a suggestion from her brother, Phileas, who was working as a missionary in French Indochina (now Vietnam) -- support the missions. With the help of co-workers at her family's silk factory, she began an effort of prayer and financial support for the missions.

That eventually led Jaricot to founding the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1822, dedicated to helping missionary efforts worldwide. She became, as others have called her, "the match that lit the fire" in support of missions.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Jaricot, who Blessed John XXIII declared venerable -- the first step of the canonization process -- in 1963. Since its establishment, the society has grown to help 1,150 mission territories worldwide. As one of four Pontifical Mission Societies overseen by the Vatican, the general fund of the Propagation of the Faith receives donations from Catholics all over the world and is the basic means of support for the Church's worldwide missions.

According to statistics released last month at the national meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the USA, St. Louis ranked third among all U.S. dioceses -- giving a total of $1,149,778 to the Propagation of the Faith. That's despite a 10 percent decrease in national giving to the society, noted Msgr. Francis Blood, director of the St. Louis archdiocesan Mission Office and head of the Pontifical Mission Societies for the archdiocese. The archdiocese ranks 38th in Catholic population among dioceses in the United States.

In the archdiocese, giving to the Propagation of the Faith decreased by more than $483,000 last year, said the priest. The majority of that decrease was attributed to fewer legacies, a will, estate or trust in which the society is named as a beneficiary.

St. Louis ranked fourth in per capita giving to the society, with an average donation of $3.94, said Msgr. Blood. He noted that amount is often less than the cost of a fast-food meal and encourages people to think about that the next time they dine out and consider giving to the missions.

Msgr. Blood thanked the people of the archdiocese for their constant support of the missions, adding that it is important to understand that supporting the missions is "not just a one-way effort."

"We need to have a sense as Catholics that we are worldwide, and the missions need our help, our prayers and our support." The missions are not just a faraway place where we can send a donation, but rather are "other places where people are living their faith. They can help us to understand what it means to be Catholic through their personal gifts."

Msgr. Blood also invited those considering support for the missions to "have the vision of Pauline Jaricot," where all are called to "go and make disciples of all nations."

To learn more about the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, visit the archdiocesan Mission Office website at archstl.org/missions.

Pauline-Marie Jaricot

• Born in Lyons, France, in 1799;

• After suffering a fall at the age of 15, she decided her heart was to be "for the whole world';

• With the encouragement of her brother, a priest serving in French Indochina (now Vietnam), she began supporting the worldwide missions through prayer and financial support;

• This led to the establishment of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in 1822; Today, the society supports 1,150 mission territories worldwide;

• Died in Lyons in 1862; declared venerable by Blessed John XXIII in 1963 ;

• Watch a video and learn more about Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot: http://stlouisreview.com/1SO. 

Learn More about "The Match that lit the Fire" at the Society for the Propagation of the Faith website.

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