The Missionary Childhood Association is one of four Pontifical Mission Societies. It has a dual mandate of educating children about their part in the Church’s missionary work and challenging them to share what they have with children growing up in mission countries.
The Pontifical Mission Societies also include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. They are part of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
A HISTORY OF HELPING
Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson was much in demand.
Many French bishops who were serving as missionaries
in the United States – the “Missions” of his day– wanted this bishop of Nancy in France to visit the young
U.S. churches and then return home to encourage
interest and support for their work. In 1839, Bishop
Forbin-Janson did just that, sailing across the ocean and
landing in New York, where he was welcomed with
open arms by Bishop John Dubois. “Poor New York,” he wrote to Catholics back in France, “there is not yet
a minor or major seminary and this diocese is larger than all of England. There are already 200,000 Catholics,
with the City of New York having about 24,000. Here
everything is to be done for the sake of religion.”
Continuing his travels, Bishop Forbin-Janson also visited
New Orleans and Baltimore, as well as Canada, all on
horseback. He preached retreats; celebrated Masses for
congregations packed into small churches and chapels,
and gathered children for religious instruction.
In 1843, Bishop Forbin-Janson returned home
determined to continue the great work of the Society
for the Propagation of the Faith, founded by a friend,
During a conversation between these two friends,
Bishop Forbin-Janson shared his own longtime dream
to help the children of the Missions. Like Jaricot, he saw
the “riches” of the poor mission churches of his day. And he was convinced that though weak and needing
care, children rich in faith and love were capable of
playing their own part in the Church’s mission and of
even stirring adults to the same generous missionary
spirit. Sometime during the course of their talk, the
Missionary Childhood Association was born. Bishop
Forbin-Janson started appealing to the children of
France to reach out – in faith and love – to help the
children of the Missions of our country and China.
In July, 1856, Pope Pius IX, raised the Missionary
Childhood Association to the rank of “canonical
institution;” all bishops were encouraged to introduce
the association in their dioceses. In his Encyclical
letter, Sancta Dei Civitas (December, 1890), Pope Leo
XIII blessed the Missionary Childhood Association and
recommended it again to the bishops emphasizing its
privileged position in “the diffusion of the Gospel light
to bring the largest possible number of those outside
the Church to the knowledge and worship of God and
Jesus Christ Whom He has sent.”
In 1926, the Missionary Childhood Association was
given the title Pontifical by Pope Pius XI, thereby
designating it as the Holy See’s official agency for
mission for children – providing substantial support
their most basic human needs while offering them hope in
the person of Jesus Christ.
The central administrative office for the Missionary
Childhood Association in the United States was established
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1893 and at that time,
entrusted to the Fathers of the Holy Ghost (Spiritans).
After relocating to Washington, D.C., the Missionary
Childhood Association national office was aligned, in 2001,with the headquarters for the other three Pontifical Mission
Societies in New York City.
Today, through our network of national directors and local
churches in 1,150 dioceses throughout the Developing
World – including those in the most remote areas of the
world – the Pontifical Mission Societies help support, day in
and day out: