Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 1

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PROLOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . BIOGRAPHY OF JEANNE BIGARD 1. A fragile life with a great ideal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. The first mystical experiences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3. Full participation in the «Mystery of the Cross» . . . . . . . . . . 4. Missionary Revival: a centre of attraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5. The Approach to the Kyoto Mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6. Desire for the greater good . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7. The reply of «Propaganda Fide» to the local hierarchy . . . . . 8. The urgency of the formation of the indigenous clergy . . . . . . . 9. The awesome project of the Society of St. Peter the Apostle . . . . 10. The Project lands in Rome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11. The approval of the universal Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12. The Ascent of Golgotha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13. A new pearl at the heart of the missionary church . . . . . . . . . 14. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle, today . . . . . . . 15. The call continues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . EPILOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” 5 6 7 9 12 12 15 17 20 21 24 26 26 28 29 32 p. ” 2 3

Cover: The Rector of St.Joseph’s Aboke Minor Seminary, Lira, Uganda, distributing Communion during Mass.

1

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 2

PROLOGUE
After several years of serving as Secretary General for the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle, I had the privilege of encountering some incredible discoveries. The number of priests worldwide continues to grow steadily, although in many places in Asia and Africa at a quicker pace. Yet in some areas where I visited and received correspondences, the conditions of the seminaries are appalling. Aside from congestion, the facilities are very inadequate for our priest-candidates. It is very edifying to witness the formators and seminarians living vibrantly in spite of these poor circumstances. Yet the world continues to need priests, even in poor countries, to carry on the work of Jesus – in spreading the Gospel. But it is an unknown fact that many who follow in His footsteps are too poor – that great efforts, sacrifice and resources are needed to support their training. Jeanne Bigard started the Society of St. Peter the Apostle to make us aware of the continuous need to help promote native vocations. As you read her life, I hope that you will also be inspired to do your own share to carry on this charism and support the Society which she has founded. I tried to provide a visual presentation of the present works of the Society. My prayer is that the pictures and statistical graphs will reveal to you the enormous challenge that still lies ahead for all of us. Hence, may this booklet serve as a reminder of our missionary calling. In many places, especially in the hearts of seminarians and the bookshelves of various seminaries, may it serve as a poignant testimony to the toil and hardships of all the wonderful people helping and working for the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle. To Jeanne Bigard and her many followers, I humbly dedicate this endeavour. Msgr. José Antonio Galvez
Rome, 1 October 2004 Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux Patroness of the Missions

2

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 3

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This booklet would have never become a reality without the valuable contribution of the following: • Msgr. Delio Lucarelli, who wrote Jeanne Bigard’s biography, and Msgr. Giuseppe Andreozzi, PMS Director for Italy, who gave us permission to reprint this work; • Sister Helen McMahon, F.M.M., whom I have pestered many times and succeeded in translating Msgr. Lucarelli’s writing into English; • Sister Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., and Fr. Gerardo Ruiz Palacios, who did the bulk of this meticulous work; • The people of Spedim who assisted us with the technical intricacies and printing aspect of this booklet; and • The staff of the International Secretariat and all the workers for the National Offices who have assisted the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle for many years, My profound gratitude and may the Lord of the Mission reward you all for your zeal and dedication.

3

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 4

Jeanne Bigard Foundress of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle 1859-1934

4

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 5

1. A fragile life with a great ideal Jeanne Bigard was born on 12th December 1859 at Constance, a small town in southern Normandy at a time when France was being ravaged by the wind of restoration, following the fall of the Napoleonic Empire. The mother, Stephanie Cottin, was a woman of character and possessive love; she longed for a daughter, after the birth of her firstborn René, who like his father, Charles Victor Bigard, had an independent character and, like him, was a career magistrate and an unbeliever. Between the mother and daughter there developed such a symbiosis of feelings and ideals as to make them almost indispensable to one another. For her mother, Jeanne represented the end of a family solitude which was suffered in silence and anticipation. She, in her turn, was abundantly compensated by an unconditional protection. Jeanne, whose health was delicate spent her school days, which are usually an initiation into the discovery of new realities and happy friendships, within the walls of the house in Caen, the city her magistrate father had moved to because of his work. The instructions given in the house, were certainly superior to that received by her contemporaries, considering the high cultural level of the Bigard family, but it did not give her the breath of freedom, the lightheartedness of games, the warmth of friendship, the caress of wind and sun, enjoyed by her contemporaries. Tensions arising from her introduction into social life with girls of her own age, risked shattering the balance of her personality. She herself was not aware of this and she made no mention of it in recalling the years of her youth. “Calmness - she writes - with all that this entails is what I lacked most, patience, the acceptance of delays, knowing how to wait. I 5

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 6

notice it every day and I now find myself as I was at eighteen years of age when I trembled with impatience to have a box of colours, a book. I wanted the object of my desire immediately.”

2. The first mystical experiences Stephanie did not ask herself any particular questions about her daughter’s possible future choices. Her aversion for the world and its attractions and her refusal of whatever was tinged by the ephemeral were evident. During Christmas 1869 Jeanne made her first confession and in May of the following year, her first communion. For her confirmation she had to await the return of Bishop Cousin from Rome, where he had participated in the First Vatican Council.

Seminarians using computers at “Santa Maria la Mayor” Major Seminary, Puyo, Ecuador.

6

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 7

At 14 years of age, attracted by the letter of St. Ilario on Virginity, Jeanne planned to become a religious; only a radical demanding all-absorbing Gospel choice would have satisfied her, but events were to lead her in another direction completely. God, in fact, would called her to render a service to the missionary Church, without sparing her trial by fire.

3. Full participation in the «Mystery of the Cross» Storms broke out in violent fury on the Bigard family: first with the death by suicide of the father, Charles Victor, on 2nd January 1878: she was 19 years old; then in 1887 with the death in tragic circumstances of her brother René, due to an embolism caused by burns from the explosion of a lamp. Jeanne was 28 years of age. This second tragic accident happened on 21st August in Lisieux where René was a highly regarded judge. Jeanne and her mother were in Vichy when they learned the news. René himself reassured them from the hospital: «My hand is slightly burned - he wrote - a spirit lamp near me on the table exploded and I was slightly burned ... but there is no danger». The two women’s interpretation of the sick man’s condition must have seemed slight since they decided to go to Lourdes in the south rather than hastening to Lisieux in the north. But there, in the Grotto, they learned the news that he had died amid dreadful suffering. Writing to a friend, Fr. Villion, who was a missionary in Japan, Jeanne expresses in grief-stricken words her sorrow at the loss of her brother René and at the same time does not conceal a profound feeling of guilt for not having been present at his death. «Father, father - she writes tearfully - can you believe our disgrace, our grief? My poor brother, my beloved René, died on 1st September, while we were far away from him». But, sustained by the certainty that he had been welcomed into God’s arms, she adds, « ... Father, it is an immense consolation: my poor 7

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 8

Palm Sunday Procession at “Holy Spirit Seminary”, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Seminarians from the Propaedeutic Seminary of Boma, Democratic Republic of Congo, working in the garden.

8

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 9

brother wrote to us that this terrible accident had inspired him with promises that he had made to Almighty God, that he had kept». Regarding her brother’s tragic demise, she noted in her diary: «A deep and incredible sorrow has plunged my whole existence into mourning. From that time I have seen everything, even the sunniest scenery, as though through a veil». Jeanne feeling herself stricken to the very depths of her being, suffered as only a refined spirit like hers could, but not losing sight of the meaning of that suffering: she requests it from Almighty God with the words of the Imitation of Christ. «Lord, sprinkle with bitterness for me all that is not you, so that I will not become attached to any created thing». Jeanne chose the most difficult path by which of reaching God, that of detachment from things which corrupt, from persons who pass.

4. Missionary Revival: a centre of attraction In Jeanne’s youth there took place the thriving business of that network of missionary cooperation of modern times, whose roots were laid in pre-Napoleonic France. The Institute of the Paris Foreign Mission Society became the fulcrum of missionary revival and the stimulating centre of some missionary associations which with prayer and spontaneous assistance offered to support missionaries sent to the Far East and to North America. Through the initiatives of different people, especially Pauline Jaricot (1799-1862), the Society for the Propagation of the Faith was launched in Lyons, destined to unite all the associations which supported the missions with prayer and offerings «one penny a week». The organisation, based on groups of ten and a hundred, succeeded in involving the whole community of the baptised in missionary co9

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 10

operation, opening it out to the horizons of the Church’s universal mission. Within the period of the first thirty years it succeeded in spreading out to several European States, including Italy, stimulating a popular interest in the missions through publications of a predominantly edifying nature, which allowed the adventurous experiences and charitable work of missionaries to be revealed, and therefore pin-pointing the various problems of the indigenous world. The Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (as the collection of letters coming from the missions and the documents relative to the culture and missionary animation were called) saw the light of day in Lyons in 1825 and for many years were the best known source of information about the missionary world. From this literature Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard, already in close contact with the Paris Foreign Mission Society, came to know some missionary priests working in the Far East, of whom they subsequently became confidantes and supporters. The meeting with the missionaries came about in the first place in an indirect way through the Apostolic Society founded by Marie Du Chesne, whose aim was to package equipment and furnishings for worship in the mission churches. Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard devoted themselves to this with all their energy. «When there was a free minute, - writes Jeanne - Mama and I would throw ourselves into our work, on voyages, in the trains, in waiting rooms, even in ante-rooms while awaiting our turn». Little by little the missions became the centre of attraction which contributed to the break up of the circle of solitude and to launching the Bigards, amidst difficulties and sadness, into a life of missionary renewal. 10

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 11

“Forming a cross to follow the Lord who died on the Cross ...” Seminarians from “Vianney Bhavan” Regional Seminary, Berhampur, India.

11

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 12

5. The Approach to the Kyoto Mission Among the priests, corresponding with the Bigard family, the foremost was Fr. Aimé Villion, a friend of Stephanie like a «first born son», and to whom Jeanne, as a close friend, shortly afterwards communicated the news of the death of her brother René. Fr. Villion, a missionary in Kyoto, expressed his resolute intention of building a church in honour of St. Francis Xavier for his little community in Kyoto, Japan. The Bigards saw one of their earlier projects, made more urgent with the death of René, becoming a reality. Nevertheless, the decision to accomplish the project would not be up to their friend Fr. Villion, but to the Vicar Apostolic of central Japan. He was opposed to such an enormous sum (50 thousand francs in securities, obtained from the sale of a farm belonging to the Bigards) being spent on the building of a church in the Japanese style, and transferred Fr. Villion to Yamaguschi, the town where three centuries previously Francis Xavier had gone «with great pomp, bearing gifts - writes Josef Schmidlin the historian of the missions - thus he gained total liberty and also carried out not a few baptisms among the cultured and the bonzes». In subsequent years, the Church of Kyoto was built with the Bigards’ money, but Fr. Villion could not bear the refusal and fell into a serious depressive crisis which for several years, prevented him from continuing his activities. Jeanne supported the missionary with earnest and kind letters.

6. Desire for the greater good The festering wound of Fr. Villion caused Jeanne much anxiety. She was tormented by the doubt that her friend might, in a moment of mental confusion, resort to something worse. She urged him, like a loving sister to review his situation and let himself to be guided. 12

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 13

“The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle assists financially the Seminaries in mission countries through the distribution of subsidies. These Seminaries are divided into 3 categories: 1) Major Seminaries (Philosophy and Theology); 2) Propaedeutic Seminaries (Preparation and discernment before entering the Major Seminary; 3) Minor Seminaries (Senior and Secondary School). See data in detail at p. 22.

13

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 14

On 20th May 1892, Jeanne, concerned about the silence and reticence of her missionary friend, wrote to him proposing that he end his dithering. The following extracts from the letter contain the richness of mind and heart in which these great works of the Christian apostolate were firmly rooted. «For my mother and I - she writes - it would be a thousand times better to know that you are sick at your post in Yamaguchi, rather than where you are at Kobi - it seems to us - that you are not following your bishop’s orders; regretfully we have consistently noted that you are not happy in Yamaguchi. Poor Father, what do you want? We are all on earth to attain heaven through our labours. From your letter we see clearly that you no longer have the tranquillity that you once had and this grieves us. But we are praying very much. Be courageous and with grace, return to your post as soon as possible (...) your greater good is the sole desire that guides my pen. Please believe this, you have never encountered a more steadfast and true affection than that which is in our hearts». Fr. Villion was anything but insensible to the entreaties that insistently came from Stehanie and Jeanne. He wanted to return their affection, but he did not have the courage to «forget the past» and those that he believed «had wronged him». The tenderness, that he had denied as a child by the premature death of his mother, was generously given to him by Mme. Bigard; but at that time he was not able to value what was being given to him. It was 25 years after the death of Stephanie, in a moving letter written to the director of the Society of St. Peter the Apostle - that he exclaimed as if asking for pardon: «There has not been a day when I have forgotten Mme. Bigard, my guardian angel!». It was written on 3rd April 1928, when Fr. Villion was already 75 years old. Only 4 years later, his death would occur at Osaka, in Japan. 14

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:22

Pagina 15

7. The reply of «Propaganda Fide» to the local hierarchy Just at the time when missionary effectiveness was increasing, in Europe there was a felt need to introduce a local hierarchy in mission territories, free from all political pressures and autonomous in its pastoral activity. The Bigards, due to their almost constant contact with the missionaries, intuitively perceived the problem and in their minds were working out a suitable response. The Paris Foreign Mission Society with which they were regularly associated, had for quite some time written into its programme the immediate establishment of indigenous churches with a hierarchy composed of local members. The realisation of this programme was not easy. The Roman Congregation of Propaganda Fide, reconstituted after the suppression decreed by Napoleon, resolutely began again to deal with the question of indigenous clergy, referring back to the famous Instruction of 1659, with which they entreated the missionaries to pay maximum attention to the formation of local clergy. More than two hundred years had passed and the provision remained a dead letter.

Stephanie Bigard Co-foundress of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle - 1834-1903

Msgr. Jules Alphonse Cousin, M.E.P. Bishop of Nagasaki

15

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 16

The bishops and vicars were consulted so as to have a confirmation and consensus on the matter. With the Instruction of 1845 the Vicars Apostolic directly dependent on Propaganda Fide were invited to pass the responsibility for the missions into the hands of the indigenous priests and not be afraid of placing European missionaries under them. The replies reaching them were too cautious. Various reasons were cited for delaying a decision which, in fact, appeared to be urgent. What is worse, the strongest opposition seemed to come from the very heart of the hierarchy itself. A shocking example, in China in 1859, bore this out when some European missionary bishops, still avoiding the issue, again asked Rome in writing if they might justifiably delay establishing the hierarchy in China or openly declared their opposition. Among other reasons, they brought forward those persecutions which were continuing to erupt against the Christians. Propaganda Fide recognised that they did not understand its plan. It was exactly the perse-

Ordination Mass at “Bigard Memorial” Major Seminary, Enugu, Nigeria.

16

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 17

cutions with the possibility of a mass expulsion of foreign missionaries which recommended the creation of an indigenous clergy as an urgent solution. History proved Propaganda to be right.

8. The urgency of the formation of the indigenous clergy For many years the crux of the problem of being able to guarantee the development of «local churches» in mission territories was that of forming the indigenous clergy. It is to be presumed that the two generous Bigard women, totally dedicated to the missionary cause would not intend limiting their involvement to providing funds for the construction of small mission churches for other very important things - but would want to enter wholeheartedly into any missionary undertaking relevant to the future of the missions. It was a concept to be totally developed, explored and anticipated. Jeanne and her mother had enough insight to take it on. Therefore their attention was concentrated on the indigenous clergy, who at any particular moment in time would ensure, the continuity of missionary activity. The starting point was a letter addressed to them on June 1, 1889 from the Bishop of Nagasaki, Msgr. Jules Alphonse Cousin of the Paris Foreign Mission Society. Worried (and that only due to lack of funds) about sending back to their respective families «some boys who would make excellent seminarians and later good priests», he asked the Bigards to help his seminary and become its promoters. «... Perhaps I am mistaken - he writes - but now that I know you, I can believe that in our Christian France there must be a good number of people inspired by a true Catholic spirit, who would not refuse to be associated with our work for the indigenous clergy, if they were aware of it». And he suggests the «adoption of a seminarian who, later on would bring to the sacred altar the memory of his adopted parents, both during their life and after death». 17

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 18

It is possible that Msgr. Cousin wanted to recruit the Bigard family solely for the Seminary of Nagasaki which was in serious financial straits. To Jeanne and Stephanie the letter sounded like a clarion call. The native clergy was the vocation to which they unreservedly offered their whole lives. They dedicated themselves immediately to the collection of funds for the seminarians of Nagasaki and at the same time gathering information from bishops and vicars apostolic of the Paris Foreign Mission Society as to the state of the indigenous clergy in their countries. For some time Jeanne’s attention still remained concentrated on the missions of the Far East, from where the news which came was not very reassuring. China, held as if in a vice between Great Britain and France, who did not recognise its sovereignty, its diplomatic equality and commercial freedom, burst into revolt and massacred Europeans, missionaries and Chinese converts. The Catholic religion, prohibited for over a century, after three years of war, was tolerated thanks to the peace signed with great Britain (18401843). But the peace did not last long. In 1856 a second war broke out, after which France obtained important commercial concessions; Catholicism was tolerated, protection was assured to converts and freedom of action to the missionaries. In reality, a Catholicism defended by peace treaties can only embitter souls. The «Boxer» rebellion, incited by extremist bands in 1898, left dead on the ground more than two hundred Catholic and Protestant missionaries and many thousands of Chinese Christians. Jeanne refers to these facts in a letter to her friend Fr. Villion (5th August 1900), according to whom the persecution taking place in China might favour conversions in Japan. Jeanne, who was able to see the reality of the situation from the beginning, contradicts him: «It is true - she admits - that in Japan you have freedom - but had this not just been granted to the Chinese Christians when this terrible strife, which perhaps will cause the ruin of the Catholic faith in this country, erupted?». There was 18

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 19

Seminarian from “St.Pius X” Major Seminary, Maputo, Mozambique, catechising the people.

Seminarians washing dishes at “St.Peter’s Propaedeutic Seminary”, Bontoc-Lagawe, Philippines.

19

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 20

only one way of avoiding the consequences: preparing clergy in every mission. «Why did they not listen to Rome after the warning cry of Fr. De Rhodes?» Why did they persist in «this foolish opposition to the indigenous clergy» on the part of some obstinate people who were very close to heresy and who fostered so much evil in simple souls. 9. The awesome project of the Society of St. Peter the Apostle The work of the indigenous clergy, referred to by Msgr. Cousin in his letter of 1st June 1889, began to occupy the minds of Jeanne and her mother, the way embarked upon would have solved the central problem of the Mission: continuity. The society which Jeanne was about to found was in perfect harmony with the teachings of the Popes and the policy followed by Propaganda Fide, in the attempt to transform the missions in the local Churches. The necessary condition, obviously, was a local clergy. To understand the importance of this, it was necessary to wait for the ecclesiological vision of Vatican II. The foundation of the Society passed through various phases: first of all, in order to satisfy the request of Msgr. Cousin and other missionaries, they collected scholarships for seminarians and packed up Church ornaments for the missions. Jeanne speaks, convinces, arouses. Above all, she gives herself as a victim for the success of this splendid idea that she finds underlined in the words of Pope Innocent XI, written to one of the first Vicars Apostolic of the Far East: «I would prefer to see the ordination of one single priest in those regions, than to hear of the conversion of fifty thousand faithful». The idea, like a conversion, overwhelmed her: Jeanne sought out inner space so as to dialogue with God. She understood that her Society should not be limited only to Msgr. Cousin’s Japan, but should extend its vision to the missions of the universe, since the whole missionary world needed priests. 20

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 21

10. The Project lands in Rome In a climate of almost general indifference, the news that, in the heart of France a movement for indigenous priests was emerging, did not pass unobserved. The Nuncio in Paris invited the Bigard promoters to put their intentions in writing. Thus came into being the report dated 1st February 1892. In the preliminary phase of the projects, the foundation of a Community of St. Peter was proposed to which «Pious women who intended to renounce the world» and «dedicate their fortunes or part of them along with their work to the indigenous clergy» could be called. «I would find it absolutely contrary to the spirit by which we should be animated - writes Jeanne - to save for one’s own future, while priestly and religious vocations are being lost for lack of financial means».

Pastoral work in the hospital for the Deacons of St.Paul’s Kinyamasika Major Seminary, Fort Portal, Uganda.

21

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 22

The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle grants an annual contribution (“Ordinary Subsidy”) for the maintenance of each seminarian studying in the Seminaries located in mission countries.

22

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 23

Speaking for herself and her mother, she declared that they had an income of 8,500 francs in addition to which each year was added 4,500 from her grandmother. «My grandmother - she writes - is very devoted to missionaries and we can believe that her devotedness to them and to us will not lessen when we inform her of our project which, at the moment, she knows nothing about». These sums were almost totally destined for the cause of the Indigenous Clergy. In the future, the Society was to open out to people from all over the world who would contribute, according to their means and willingness, to support: 1. the foundation of permanent scholarships; 2. the adoption of a seminarian; 3. prayer, offerings, work. However in order to ensure a stable beginning - it would seem that - two requisite conditions were necessary: the grace of God and the blessing of the Pope. The latter would be accorded only on the presentation of demonstrated proof. This was not long in coming. It would be Leo XIII himself, the Pope of «Rerum Novarum» who would present the opportunity for this with his Encyclical «Ad extremas orientis», by which «he opened up» the question of indigenous priests, by effecting the promotion of a major seminary for the preparation of priests for all the churches of the Far East. This important document, whose arguments for a local hierarchy were drawn on and elaborated by his successors, in the great missionary encyclicals of the 20th century, brought into focus the very objectives of Jeanne Bigard’s Society of St. Peter the Apostle. In a nutshell, why did these arguments of Leo XIII make the formation of a local hierarchy a matter of urgency? Because missionaries who did not know the language and customs of the place were regarded as foreigners, whereas indigenous priests who 23

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 24

were from the place, would be assisted in their ministry. It is then to be borne in mind that the number of foreign missionaries, would soon not be able to keep up with the increasing number of conversions. And finally the practice inaugurated by the apostles and continued by the Roman Pontiffs was followed. The solution suggested by Leo XIII marked the end of the inquiries and the evasions: «Once the seminaries are founded, we hope to see them produce numerous and zealous priests». The Society of St. Peter the Apostle already had its thousand active associates and a long list of scholarships to the value of one hundred thousand francs for seminarians from Asia and Africa. It could really expect a sign of Rome’s approval.

11. The approval of the universal Church This came in the form of a blessing granted by Leo XIII to a not very clearly identified «Franciscus archiepiscopus» who on July 12, 1895 sent it with, «toto cordis affectu» to the donors, and not to Jeanne’s Society, since it still lacked the Bishop’s consent. It would be the Pope’s blessing, contained in those two lines in Latin which would demolish one by one the bastions of the French Episcopacy and persuade it to grant the nulla osta to the Society of St. Peter the Apostle for the Indigenous Clergy of the Missions, which thus, legitimately entered the universal Church. Propaganda Fide, through its Prefects, Cardinals Ledochowski and Jacobini, guaranteed its full support for the Society. The latter, in a letter, anticipated its inclusion in the Pontifical Mission Societies, which took place on 3rd May 1922, in obedience to the wishes of Pius XI. 24

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 25

Presbyteral Ordination in St.Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy, presided by Pope John Paul II. © Osservatore Romano

25

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 26

12. The Ascent of Golgotha But the solitude and abandonment experienced by many founders and foundresses also affected Jeanne. At the bedside of the dying Mama Stephanie (January 5, 1903) Jeanne Bigard was there alone, struggling with her grief and her loneliness. «She received me weeping», wrote a passing missionary Bishop. Left alone, she confessed: «It seems to me that after the foundation of the Society my life was a folly and that I had set up without reflection». She revealed the state of her soul to a spiritual director, who discreetly counselled her: she offered her sufferings to God, the love of those who had helped her and who continued to be with her. She was afraid of spiritual darkness, and begged Jesus to be her companion on the journey: «until the day in which I will lose myself in your love». She was anxious about the continuity of the Society, not having found a suitable collaborator. Finally, she entrusted the Society of St. Peter the Apostle and herself to the Religious Congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, whom she found - so it seemed - responded to her expectations. The events that follow until her death, which occurred on 28 April 1934, reveal the uncompromising logic of the work of God, who, while bounteously offering eternal salvation, asks, in exchange, the immolation and the annihilation of this mortal body. It is hard to believe and more difficult to live.

13. A new pearl at the heart of the missionary church The Society of St. Peter the Apostle now legitimately entered the life of the Church. For the first time it appeared in a solemn magisterial document, the «Maximum Illud» of Benedict XV, as the Society compe26

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 27

Asian Novices from the “Sisters of Charity”. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle also grants an “ordinary subsidy” for the maintenance of religious men and women in their first canonical year of Novitiate.

The dormitory of “St.Peter’s Minor Seminary” after a devastating storm in 2003 (Yola, Nigeria).

27

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 28

tent for seminaries and local hierarchies. The Popes enriched it with spiritual favours and indulgences, as Jeanne Bigard had desired. From her they drew inspiration whenever they contemplated dealing with the transition from mission to local Church. On 3rd May, 1922 Pius XI proclaimed it a «Pontifical Society». But the path initiated by Jeanne still had a very long way to go; in 1926 Pius XI encouraged the still hesitant missionary congregations to cultivate local vocations and give them a formation which corresponded to their needs. He himself consecrated the first Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese Bishops, who were followed by the first African Vicars Apostolic, consecrated by Pius XII in 1939. The latter said: «We have had the joy of establishing ecclesiastical hierarchies in many countries». In 1951 Pius XII provided a concise picture of the results obtained: from 15 million faithful in 1926 - he announced - there was an escalation to 26 million. «Then the missions were almost all entrusted to foreign missionaries: Now 88 missions have passed to the indigenous clergy. From 1,770 major seminarians the numbers has risen to 4,300. And that was before the erection of the Urban University and the College of St. Peter on the Janiculum».

14. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle, today At the turn of this millennium, there is a total of 405,000 priests worldwide of whom 28,000 and 43,000 are assigned in Africa and Asia respectively. The message of Jeanne Bigard worked the miracle of the little mustard seed which dies in order to grow. Her Society was from many angles, crucial to the aims of evangelisation because she believed in the universality of salvation and the plurality of proclamation; but many roads yet remain to be crossed. 28

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 29

15. The call continues Our times still challenge the Society. Far from having achieved the aim, for which it has tirelessly worked, in the past century it has only come a little closer. By now the Church of the continents is a reality, but it is living through the most delicate time of its fully universal growth. The formative effort of the inculturation of the Gospel which is the specific task of each of the young Churches, requires maximum participation and solidarity so as to prevent the fervour of new energies from being weakened and squandered. There are frequent cases of the bishops of young Churches having to resort to an S.O.S. for survival. «In my diocese - an African Bishop wrote

Our Society financially supports two Colleges in Rome ("St. Peter" and "St. Paul") where about 350 priests from mission countries live. They attend the Pontifical Universities for specialization studies. For the same purpose, POSPA supports the "Foyer Paul VI" that hosts 80 religious sisters who study in the Eternal City. Photo: Liturgical celebration in the chapel of "St. Peter" College.

29

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 30

The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle grants “Extraordinary Subsidies” as a way to financially help Seminaries cover expenses for contructions, refurbishing works, urgent repairs, furniture, etc.

30

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 31

to Cardinal Tomko (Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) - I have noted a growing influx of young men who wish to become priests, but our poverty prevents us from having adequate structures for welcoming the vocations which God is raising up. Help us so that this favourable moment may not pass in vain!». And may this century not pass in vain: may it not be a past memory, but a present prophecy.

New front entrance at “Sanctae Mariae Matris Ecclesiae” Major Seminary, Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

31

Opuscolo POSPA_1_32

13-10-2004

11:23

Pagina 32

EPILOGUE
After going through this booklet, most of you may now have a better understanding of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle. This Society has come a long way from its initial stages in 1889 and its eventual formal recognition on 3 May 1922. I have attempted to present its story, together with the life of Jeanne Bigard, amidst the vivid pictures of those who benefit from its works. I have left most of Msgr. Lucarelli’s writings intact although I have revised and updated some of the details. The graphs and statistics were utilized to give you a better feel of the width and scope of this Society’s coverage. As of this moment, this organization which Jeanne Bigard initiated, is servicing a total of 79,270 seminarians studying in 954 seminaries worldwide. It continues to provide help, by means of subsidies, to 10,866 male and female novices coming from different religious congregations all over the world. It dispenses scholarships and accommodation to 408 students staying in 3 big institutions that it maintains in Rome (the Collegio San Pietro, Collegio San Paolo and Foyer Paolo VI), plus 610 burses for those who are doing higher ecclesiastical studies in Cameroun, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar and Nigeria. In this year 2004 alone, it allocated US$ 3,700,000 in the form of extraordinary subsidies. Like what Msgr. Jules Alphonse Cousin received, these subsidies are important to construct chapels, classrooms, refectories, dormitories, etc. which are badly needed in many houses of formation. What you have witnessed is the past and present. What future the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle would have is passed on into your hands. The challenge continues to train native priests for many of our mission areas. Like a seed that was planted, the Society continues to grow and to reach out into the horizon. The world still needs priests for its young Churches. The Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle can continue its legacy and charism with all of your support and conviction. 32