Keep the Fire Burning

On January 9, for the first time, we will be marking the feast day of our founder, Blessed Pauline Jaricot, who was beatified in May 2022. Pauline boldly spent her life and her life savings to further the cause of the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

At the age of 18, Pauline had a prayerful vision: two oil lamps appeared, one empty, one overflowing. The overflowing oil was filling the empty lamp. To Pauline, the empty lamp was her home country of France, still struggling with its faith after the French Revolution. The overflowing lamp represented the young, vibrant faith of the New World whose stories could re-energize Europe.

Her vision became her vocation.

Pauline became the self-proclaimed "match that lit the fire." She organized local silk factory workers into "circles of ten", asking them to gather weekly to pray and sacrifice for the ministry of missionaries around the world. Once established, each circle member was asked to find 10 more people to do the same. Within a year, 500 workers were enrolled; soon there would be thousands.

The sacrifices made through Pauline's circles became the foundation for the Universal Solidarity Fund of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith. No one mission or group is supported -- all are.

Here in the United States, we haven't always been donors -- we were on the receiving end of the generosity of Western Europe's Catholics.

Between the years 1829 and 1864, the young diocese of Boston received $52,839, which in today's dollars translates to roughly $1.1 million! Our Solidarity Fund helped to build up parish communities and Catholic healthcare and education here in our own backyard.

It is a point of pride here in the Archdiocese of Boston that we opened our first Propagation office in 1898 even though the United States was "mission-dependent" -- meaning our country relied on support from the Propagation of the Faith -- until 1908.

Pauline's vision of the two oil lamps still illuminates our work. Stories of the Church growing around the world continue to inspire Catholics both in the Archdiocese of Boston and worldwide to great prayer and generosity as the cause for Pauline's canonization continues. Please join us as we pray for her intercession daily and sacrifice for the growing mission Church. Perhaps it's time to start your own "Mission Prayer Circle" in your parish and see how far it can spread.

May the fire that Pauline lit over two hundred years ago continue to burn brightly in the hearts of Catholics everywhere.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.