Society of the Propagation of the Faith celebrates beatification of founder

SALEM -- On May 22, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith held a special Mass at St. Anne Parish in honor of the society's founder, Blessed Pauline Marie Jaricot, who was beatified in her birthplace of Lyon, France, that day.

St. Anne Parish was chosen to host the celebration because it was originally a French parish and has since become home to Cameroonian, Congolese, and Filipino communities. Maureen Heil, the director of programs and development for the Pontifical Mission Societies of Boston, said that having the celebration there "spoke to so much that Pauline represented."

"It was a beautiful reflection of the work that Pauline set in motion that brought the faith to those countries around the world," Heil said, speaking to The Pilot on May 25.

A picture of Blessed Pauline was set on an easel in front of the altar during the Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Arthur Kennedy. A group of Cameroonian women carried the Book of Gospels up in a procession with dancing. Twelve children from the parish's different cultural communities served at the altar, and eight children made their First Communion.

Bishop Kennedy blessed a basket of World Mission Rosaries, which were distributed after the Mass, along with prayer cards with Blessed Pauline's image. Heil said they distributed about 400 rosaries.

A message from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley was read aloud during the Mass, in which he gave thanks "for the Church holding up Blessed Pauline-Marie as a model and example of discipleship for us."

In his message, Cardinal O'Malley said that Blessed Pauline had heard the words of the Great Commission, "go and make disciples of all nations," and put them into action.

"Her life was lived as a prayer of response to Jesus' call, and her work is carried on today by all of you, who have also heard and responded to the Lord," Cardinal O'Malley said.

After the Liturgy of the Word, Heil shared remarks about Blessed Pauline, who lived from 1799 to 1862. As a teenager, she worked in a hospice and catechized women who worked in Lyon's silk factories. She heard stories about the missions from her brother, Phileas, who was studying to be a missionary priest.

One day, while praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, Blessed Pauline had a vision of two oil lamps, one empty and one full. The full lamp poured its oil into the empty one without running dry.

"She knew that the empty one represented her beloved France, secularized after its revolution. The full one was full from the stories of the young, vibrant mission Church," Heil explained.

Blessed Pauline began organizing groups of workers in the silk factories into "prayer circles," which met once a week to pray and make regular donations for the missions. At the time, each member sacrificed one penny a week, which Heil said was "a fair sum for factory workers at that time." Then, Blessed Pauline challenged each member to start a new prayer circle with other people, spreading the effort to pray and sacrifice for the missions.

Heil noted that two-thirds of Blessed Pauline's first disbursement of funds went to the U.S., which was one of the largest mission lands of her time.

"Two hundred years later -- with your help as members -- the U.S. is now the largest donor to the Propagation, helping to build the Church in Africa, Asia, remote parts of Latin and South America, and those tiny islands that dot the Pacific Ocean," Heil said as she addressed the assembly.

"May Blessed Pauline Jaricot inspire us to live our lives in greater simplicity, with our hearts focused on Jesus in the Eucharist, knowing that our own mission is to bring him to others, even to the ends of the earth!" Heil said.

In addition to honoring Blessed Pauline, the Mass was also a special occasion for Father Maurice Agbaw-Ebai, the administrator of St. Anne Parish. He is being transferred to teach full-time at St. John's Seminary, and this was his last weekend in the parish.

As a seminarian, Father Agbaw-Ebai received a scholarship from the Society of St. Peter Apostle, which supports vocations to the priesthood and religious life for the missions. He often conducts mission appeals for the Society of St. Peter Apostle, the Pontifical Mission Society that supports vocations in the missions, and shares how their support enabled him to become a priest.

When it was time for the offertory, Father Agbaw-Ebai announced that they would do it "the African way," with the faithful coming forward to put their gifts into a basket in front of the altar. He surprised Heil by announcing that there would be a second collection to support the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He said that he would not be there without the mission societies, and he asked the parishioners to be generous in their giving.

Heil said she felt like the parishioners did exactly what Blessed Pauline started the organization to do.

"They immediately prayed for the missions, and they immediately sacrificed for the missions. And that's what Pauline asked for," Heil said.