The Lord’s injunction is loud and clear: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) How do we all, lay and clergy, get involved in executing this mandate of the risen Lord?
The Pontifical Mission Societies
Since 1818, various people inspired by the Holy Spirit have identified and promoted certain modalities by which the larger Catholic populace would be engaged in the missionary work entrusted to us by Christ. These people initiated associations which we now refer to as Pontifical Mission Societies (P.M.S.) because they have been officially recognized and adopted for the Universal Church by the various Popes. The activities of these societies include praying for the success of the missions, promoting cooperation among all the local churches, sharing of material and human resources and raising funds
for the Universal Solidarity Funds which are mainly for the support of the Churches in Mission territories.
There are Four Pontifical Mission Societies
- The Pontifical Society for the Propagation of Faith
- The Pontifical Society of the St. Peter the Apostle.
- The Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood (Holy Childhood)
- The Pontifical Missionary Union
1. Pontifical Society for the Propagation of Faith
The society was founded by a lay French lady, Pauline Marie Jaricot (1799-1862) in Lyon, France in 1822. The society was decreed pontifical by Pope Pius XI on 3rd May 1922. Annual collections are taken on Mission Sunday, thus the last but one Sunday in October for the Universal Solidarity Fund for the redistribution to Churches in Mission territories for- the building of churches, rectories, convents, pastoral and retreat centres etc. – The formation of catechists etc.
2. The Society of St Peter the Apostle
The society was founded in 1889 in Caen, France by two French ladies Jeanne Bigard and her mother, Stephanie Bigard to promote the formation of the indigenous priests and religious. It was decreed pontifical on 3rd May 1922 by Pope Pius XI. The Universal Solidarity Fund is used in supporting bishops in Mission lands to form their seminarians and novices. Every year collections are taken on fourth Sunday of Easter and here in Zimbabwe on Vocations Sunday, first Sunday of July.
3. The society of Missionary Childhood (Holy Childhood)
The society was founded on the 9th of May 1843 in Paris, France by bishop of Nancy, Bishop Charles Auguste Marie de Fobin-Janson (1785-1844). He organized children to help the most needy children; children are imbued with the missionary spirit. On 3rd of March 1922, Pope Pius XI decreed that this society should be Pontifical. The society is for children between the ages of reason to fourteen. The Universal Solidarity Fund is used in building schools, orphanages etc. The annual celebration is on the Sunday nearest to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.
4. The Missionary Union
The Blessed Father Paolo Manna (1872-1952), an Italian missionary was the founder of the Missionary Union of clergy in Italy in 1916. It helps pastors to develop a profound missionary conscience, giving life and effectiveness to the other three P.M.S. It is therefore said to be the “Soul” of the other P.M.S. It was declared pontifical with the decree of Pope Pius XII on the 28th of October 1956.
The Structure of the P.M.S.
In Rome there is an international secretariat for each of the four P.M.S. with a Secretary General. All the secretariats operate under the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The P.M.S. has a bishop President. The Supreme Council is presided over by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples while all the National Directors are part of the Superior Council.
Specific Nature of the National Administration of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
The National Administration is under the direction of the National Director who organizes, animates and develops the work of the four societies in faithfulness to their charisma. The National Director has a permanent Office the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference – Africa Synod House. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tasks for this National Office staff, reflecting the vision of the National Director include:
- Directing and coordinating missionary formation and cooperation through formative programs aimed at information, celebrating and solidarity, aware that missionary activity is a matter for all Christians (Redemptoris Missio, 11)
- Establishing and maintaining personal contact and support of the network of Diocesan Directors. (Statute 11, Article 53b)
- Promoting the October celebration of World Mission Sunday through various media – print and audiovisual – and through materials specifically for parish use.
- Providing information and stories to FIDES NEWS SERVICE, as well as to the Catholic and secular media.
- Advertising/promoting the programs of the four Societies, including the call to support these through bequests.
- Publishing pamphlets – booklets on the history and current work of the four Societies, the current missionary wok of the Church, as well as on missionary spirituality; distributing these publications to educators, priests, religious and individuals, especially the young. The aim of all publications is to capture the interest of the readers, arouse a desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who have not yet heard it and to inspire others to accept an active share in the missionary work of the Church by arousing missionary vocations.
- Promoting the Mission Day of the Sick (February 11) which illustrates the redemptive value of human suffering and the effective participation of the sick in the missionary activity of the Church, as well as other significant mission-related celebrations.
- Setting up and maintaining a database of members – supporters of the four Societies for purposes of written appeals.
- Creating a permanent display/exhibition for use at national and diocesan gatherings.
Below are some of the projects being carried out by the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zimbabwe: