June 1 marks the 132nd anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle

01 June 2021

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June 1 marks the 132nd anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Society of St. Peter the Apostle (POSPA) which traditionally coincides with the heartfelt request for help from Msgr.Jules-Alphonse Cousin, of the Foreign Missions of Paris, Apostolic Vicar of southern Japan in 1855, then bishop of Nagasaki in 1891, addressed to Jeanne Bigard to whom he had been addressed by a benefactress. The bishop in the letter addressed to the ladies Bigard (Jeanne and her mother Stéphanie) dated June 1, 1889 explained that due to lack of financial means he was forced to send back home some young people who had clear signs of a priestly vocation. Jeanne Bigard herself explained in 1902 to the Marian Congress of Friborg (Switzerland) and the Eucharistic Congress of Namur (Belgium): "From information obtained from missionary Bishops, we had the painful certainty that everywhere in the Mission, both in the Indies and in Africa, in Japan and throughout the Far East, the formation of the indigenous clergy was left on hold due to lack of money". Bigard continues: "Armed with a great trust in God, having only the letters of the missionary Bishops as support, who had confided their anguish to us, we became mendicants... The thought that supported us was that we consecrated ourselves to one of the most dear Societies of the Church: we knew in fact that the formation of an indigenous clergy had always been insistently recommended to the Missionaries by the Sovereign Pontiffs as the constitutive and vital work of the Church. Therefore, we went ahead, under the gaze of God and Mary, whom we take care to greet with an Ave before each act ... In exchange for our dedication and our sacrifices that the bishops had made them know, these dear indigenous seminarians, in the letters they sent us, imbued with profound piety and, at times, with admirable sentiments, were pleased to declare themselves our children and to name us their mothers in Christ". Confirming Mrs. Bigard's initiative, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Ad extremas of  June 24, 1893 in which the Pope, underlining how local bishops are hindered in their mission by the poverty of families and the shortage of priests suitable to guide studies and to govern wisely the organization, writes "This shows how opportune, how useful it is for public health to found Seminaries in the East Indies where the local youth, hope of the Church, are educated in every subtlety of doctrine and in those virtues without which they cannot exercise the sacred ministries of the Church neither holy nor usefully".