Pauline Jaricot was a remarkable young lay woman with formidable faith.
Through her resolution and strong beliefs, she founded the Association for the Propagation of the Faith (the APF), which makes her one of Missio’s founders.
Pauline believed that if we all give a little and pray together, we can share God’s love throughout the world. Watch this film and read more about her life below…
Pauline: A heart on fire
Pauline was born in 1799 to a wealthy family living in Lyon.
Amid the turmoil of the French Revolution, her parents gave her a
loving upbringing and a living faith.
Pauline witnessed and was inspired by her parents’ living faith and works of charity.
In her teens, Pauline grew into a pretty, worldly and flirtatious young woman, and as her family were wealthy, a life in high society and social whirl began. She even fell in love with a young man she met on a family holiday.
But then Pauline’s life changed forever. A severe fall left her with nerve damage which affected her movement and speech.
Around that time her older brother and mother died. Pauline shut herself off from the world.
Pauline’s health continued to deteriorate. But then a local Priest visited her. He encouraged her to return to her faith, and with his guidance she returned to God and the Sacraments.
Slowly her condition, now thought to be Sydenham’s chorea, improved. As soon as she could walk safely she asked to be accompanied to the sanctuary of Fourvière where she committed herself to Mary forever.
Pauline began to change her life. She gave away her finery and began to take care of people living in poverty.
She began to work with people that were poor every day, making daily trips to a hospice to tend and accompany those who were dying.
Young workers from the city’s silk factories received Pauline’s interest and time – she started meetings and catechism sessions with them.
Pauline became increasingly devoted to God. She had a mission to bring light and hope to dark and challenging situations.
Meanwhile, along with her brother Phileas who was studying in a seminary, Pauline began helping missionaries overseas. At 19, she decided to support them through prayer and material help.
Pauline established a penny collection among her father’s employees: the first social missionary network.
Supporters met in small groups to donate pennies, pray and exchange news about ‘the missions’. In turn they created more groups.
This network became the Propagation of the Faith in 1822. It then spread throughout the world.
At 27, Pauline founded the Living Rosary. Groups of 15 people prayed the Rosary together daily. Today there are 11 million devotees throughout the world.
Fr Thomas Jackson, a Mill Hill Missionary, had a similar idea. He established the Red Box in England and Wales, encouraging people to give their pennies and to pray for missionaries. This continues to this day. For Missio, working in partnership with the Mill Hill Missionaries, the Red Box fulfils Pauline’s vision.
Around the age of 30, Pauline suffered more personal hardship. She lost her brother Phileas and sister Laurette before suffering a heart attack herself.
Through it all, she took refuge in prayer. And although she had to step back from some of her charitable works, she established a community of young lay women devoted to prayer. She called them the Daughters of Mary, and bought a house in Lyon where they could live and pray together, named Loretto House. It is still there and now welcomes pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.
Pauline’s health continued to deteriorate. Although very ill, Pauline travelled to Rome in 1835. There she met Pope Gregory XVI.
This special gesture demonstrated the Holy See’s deep appreciation of Pauline Jaricot’s work. But Pauline was seriously ill. She could barely move and didn’t expect to return home from Italy.
After another month, Pauline managed to travel from Rome to the Shrine of St Philomena in Mugnano, seeking her intercession. Miraculously, during a Eucharistic Adoration, Pauline began to move, and jumped out of her chair. She returned to Lyon cured and had a chapel built in St Philomena’s honour.
Back in Lyon, Pauline wanted to help workers living in terrible conditions and poverty. She created a new factory, called Our Lady of Angels, which produced devotional objects and sacred art, and ensured good living and working conditions.
Sadly, her business managers swindled her, and the enterprise collapsed. Many tried to discredit Pauline. Financially and socially ruined, Pauline nonethless remained strong in her faith.
Although Pauline died in financial destitution, her missionary societies grew and shone throughout the world.
Bishop Charles De Forbin-Janson of Nancy (another of Missio’s founders) shared Pauline’s heart for mission both in Europe and overseas. With her encouragement he created the Work of the Holy Childhood, known today in England and Wales as Missio’s children’s branch: Mission Together.
In 1922, Pius XI raised the Propagation of the Faith to the status of a pontifical society and transferred its head office to Rome.
Keeping up the good work
From Pauline’s foundations, Missio continues to build a vibrant missionary family around the world. Please help us bring practical and spiritual help to everyone who needs it.