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HISTORY OF PIME

Explore PIME Throughout Time

  • Dec, 1 1850
    1850
  • Apr, 10 1852
    1852
  • Sept, 25 1855
    1855
  • June, 21 1874
    1874
  • July, 21 1900
    1900
  • May, 26 1926
    1926
  • 1947
    1947
  • Jan, 11 1949
    1949
  • Sept, 15 1952
    1952
  • 1954
    1954 1
  • 1954
    1954 2
  • 1975
    1975
  • 1981
    1981
  • 1991
    1991
  • 2009
    2009
  • June, 26 2011
    2011
  • 2016
    2016
  • Foundation Act of the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions, signed by all the bishops of Lombardy.

  • Departure of the Lombard Seminary's first missionary expedition for Oceania (present Papua New Guinea), reaching Woodlark on October 8th, and Rook on October 23rd.

  • Killing of Blessed John Mazzucconi and the crew of La Gazelle in the Woodlark Bay (Beatified in 1984.) The massacre results in the abandonment of the mission.

  • Pius IX officially establishes the Pontifical Seminary of the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul for Foreign Missions.

  • Martyrdom of St. Alberic Crescitelli, at Yanzibian, China. He was canonized in 2000.

  • Pius XI merges the Lombard Seminary and the Roman Seminary into the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions; and the official birth of PIME.

  • PIME comes to the United States. At the invitation of Edward Cardinal Mooney, the PIME Missionaries establish a presence in the Detroit area.

  • PIME Priests begin administration of San Francesco Church, Detroit -now located in Clinton Township, Michigan.

  • Blessed Paolo Manna, missionary to Burma and first Superior General of PIME, dies in Naples (beatified in 2001.)

  • PIME's North American Region headquarters moves to Boston Boulevard in Detroit.

  • Catholic Life Magazine is launched.

  • PIME's U.S. Mission Center and Regional Headquarters moves to Quincy Street in Detroit.

  • PIME Missionaries return to Papua New Guinea after an absence of 127 years.

  • Catholic Life magazine is renamed PIME World.

  • A renovation of the PIME North American Region headquarters is completed.

  • June, 26 - Father Clement Vismara, missionary to Burma for 65 years, is beatified.

  • PIME World magazine is renamed as Mission World.

A Foundation Built on Faith

The PIME Missionaries have their roots in the Lombard Seminary for Foreign Missions and Pontifical Seminary of Sts. Peter and Paul for Foreign Missions. PIME (The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) came into being on July 30th, 1850 in Saronno, Milan, a commune of Lombardy, Italy. This was all thanks to the great heart of Pope Pius IX, who gave a vigorous push for foreign missions.

76 years later, PIME was officially founded by Pius IX in 1926, when he united the seminaries of Milan (1850) and Rome (1871). The two merged to become the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Pontificium Institutum pro Missionibus Exteris, or the name we know and use today, PIME.

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PIME - More Than 155 Years In the Missions

  • Pope Pius IX gave a fervent push for foreign missions, which led to the beginning of PIME (The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) in Saronno, Milan in 1850. In spite of the enormous difficulties of his pontificate, Pius IX desired that an institute of secular clergy and laymen similar to the model of the “Foreign Missions” of Paris come to birth in Italy. The latter society was the right arm of Propaganda Fide in Asia. In 1847, the Pope informed the Archbishop of Milan, Archbishop Romilli, that an Italian missionary seminary should be created in the Lombard region. The proposal fell on fertile ground. The birth of the “Propagation of the Faith” in Lyons (1822) and its initiatives and popular magazines had already set the hearts of the young clergy of the Milanese jurisdiction on fire. Father Angelo Ramazzotti, the superior of the Oblates of Rho, had felt a strong love for the missions from the time of his boyhood, and he had encouraged some young clerics and priests to aspire to the mission apostolate by sending them to religious congregations and orders. He offered himself to Archbishop Romilli and began the “Lombard Seminary for the Foreign Missions” in his father’s house in Saronno together with the first five Milanese priests and two laymen. (In 1851, it was moved to Milan.)

  • The “Mission Seminary” had its “baptism” by the bishops’ conference of the Lombard region. The bishops signed the act of foundation on December 1, 1850. The Cardinal emeritus of Milan, Cardinal Martini, has said that the text “expresses the theology of the local Church and its missionary nature in terms which anticipate Vatican II.” As a matter of fact, those bishops stated that they were not “held back by the fear of losing some subject from the needs of the diocese.” On the contrary, “the spread of the universal Church is the concern of every individual church, and every diocese is in some way responsible to provide its contingent in the apostolic army for this purpose.” Thus it happened that they began their “Provincial Seminary” for the missions with the hope that “also in other places, especially where the clergy is abundant, the bishops will open up for their young ecclesiastics in a favorable way this career … and form such provincial institutes for the testing, formation, and assistance to those aspiring to the foreign missions.”

  • It was a modest beginning, but there was a great spirit of giving to the “most distant and abandoned peoples.” It is a fact that the first seven missionaries chose to go to two small islands (Rook and Woodlark) in Oceania. These had been given up by the Marist missionaries; the people were living in the stone age. The new missionaries had to withdraw from the mission after three years and two deaths; one of them was the martyr John Mazzucconi, who was beatified in 1984. The charism of going to the farthest frontiers of Christianity has remained as a precious heritage from the time of the foundation, and it has been evident many times when missions that had been either abandoned or refused by others were then accepted from the Holy See.

  • As the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, PIME was born at the will of another Pope, Pius XI. In 1926 he united the Lombard Seminary for the Foreign Missions with the Pontifical Seminary of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for the Foreign Missions. It was founded in Rome in 1871 by Msgr. Pietro Avanzini with characteristics similar to those of the Milan group. It had been approved by Pope Pius IX in 1874. It had sent members to China, Mexico, Australia, Sudan, Egypt, and also the United States in the service of local churches. From the very beginning, the two mission seminaries had the goal of sending diocesan priests to the missions (the Lombard seminary was sending laymen as well) but without making them religious. The sole purpose was the first proclamation of the Gospel and foundation of local churches in regions entrusted to them by Propaganda Fide: the mission “ad gentes” (to the non-Christians). In 1936 PIME gave birth to “The Missionaries of the Immaculate” which today number 800 sisters and work in the five continents together with missionary priests and brothers. Recent years have given birth to “Missionary lay women” who are consecrated for life as well as “Alp” (Lay Association PIME); they are men and women who commit themselves for a few years for specific projects in the missions. (These movements are most prevalent in Italy.)

  • In over 160 years of its existence, PIME has founded 40 dioceses, across several continents. The number of missionaries was always limited, composed of priests and laymen who were consecrated for life. They were never more than 700; today they are over 500. Presently they work in 17 countries including Italy, two in North America, one in Oceania, one in South America, four in Africa, and eight in Asia.

  • The institute has given the Church 19 martyrs, 1,700 missionaries, 70 bishops or apostolic prefects and apostolic vicars. It has one saint, Alberico Crescitelli, who was martyred in China (1863-1900) as well as two Blesseds: Giovanni Mazzucconi, martyred in Papua New Guinea (1826-1855) and Paulo Manna, the founder of the Pontifical Missionary Union of the Clergy and Religious (1872-1952), Fr. Clemente Vismara, one of the first missionaries to Myanmar (1897-1988) and Fr. Mario Vergara, martyred in Myanmar (1910-1950). At present, there are several causes for canonization going on: specifically those of PIME's founder, Venerable Bishop Angelo Ramazzotti (1800-1861), Br. Felice Tantardini, "the blacksmith of God" (1898-1991), Fr. Carlo Salerio, founder of the Sisters of Reparation (1827-1870), Fr. Alfredo Cremonesi, who died a martyr's death in Myanmar (1902-1953. There is also the cause of Fr. Carlo Salerio (1827-1870), who was a missionary in Oceania and the founder of the Sisters of Reparation. Another cause is that of two martyrs in Burma: Fr. Alfredo Cremonesi (1902-1953) and Fr. Mario Vergara (1910-1950). Last of all, there is Dr. Marcello Candia (1916-1983) a lay missionary from Milan who worked with the PIME missionaries in the Amazon region. On March 9, 1958, the then Patriarch of Venice (who became Pope John XXIII a few months later) described PIME as “the most outstanding missionary creation in Italy during the last century.”

  • The historical evolution of the “Lombard Seminary for the Foreign Missions” went through two substantial changes in respect to its beginnings. The first was the change -- already mentioned -- from the Lombard Seminary to the Pontifical Institute. This change was according to the Pope’s wishes but it was also required by the times themselves; The Code of Canon Law (1917) applied very strict rules regarding incardination of the clergy and left no space for sending diocesan clergy to the missions: the Institute had to incardinate its own missionaries, thus removing them from their dioceses of origin.

  • Most important, however, was the fact that the successors of the Lombard bishops who had signed the act of foundation in 1850 had gradually lost interest in the “mission seminary” and were sending few and fewer vocations and refusing to take back in their own dioceses those who had returned from the missions. This had obliged the Lombard Seminary to create a structure in Italy. First there was an Apostolic house at Monza in 1911 (61 years after the foundation itself), then there were other seminaries at various levels and centers of missionary and vocational animation, as well as a rest house for those who had returned from the missions (at Lecco). In 1951 the general direction was moved to Rome and was more highly structured than in the past. The one who especially promoted this development was Fr. Paulo Manna (a former missionary in Burma); he was also the superior general from 1924 to 1934, and the founder (in 1916) of the Missionary Union of the Clergy (today it is part of the Pontifical Missionary Works).

  • The second big change was internationalization: a policy that was brought about gradually in the 1950’s and completed at the general assembly at Tagaytay in the Philippines in 1989. This opened the doors of PIME to non-Italian members without any limits. It was a courageous change, though not always peaceful; due to the debate within the Institute among those who would have liked to remain faithful to tradition and those who thought that the changes in the world (globalization) and in the young churches pushed forward the cause of internationalization. In the past, the Institute had never had a policy of expanding in other lands (unlike what normally happens in religious congregations), however neither was this change excluded by some fundamental principle. According to the rules of 1886 (confirmed by the Constitutions of 1925) the “Mission Seminary for the Foreign Missions” could accept both European priests and “indigenous priests formed in the mission.” However, as a matter of fact, until recent years, PIME only concerned itself with the formation of Italian candidates and the founding of churches in new territories it had evangelized without founding the Institute itself in those places.

  • The situation has changed gradually in the last 40-50 years. The young churches have matured and in turn have become missionary, moreover, they have more vocations than the churches of ancient Christianity. On August 31, 1969, at Kampala in Uganda, Pope Paul VI proclaimed. “You Africans are now missionaries for yourselves.” At the time it seemed to be a spontaneous slogan, but it turned out to be a prophetic indication: many years have passed and now no one doubts any more that in the Church the missionary initiative is passing from the ancient churches to the young ones. Today there are more and more requests to the missionary institutes to expand their missionary charism to the young churches, which they established and to train and send forth missionaries from these churches which often lack the necessary personnel for their pastoral needs in caring for the Christians. However, these churches have realized the truth of the words of Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio (n. 2): “Faith is made stronger by passing it on!” Thus, these churches aim to make their Christians into missionaries. This is why they need the charism of missionary institutes. PIME was born to found new churches, but also to make them missionary. It is from this standpoint that PIME has helped in the birth of local missionary institutes, which are under the authority of the bishops’ conferences in Brazil, Thailand, India, the Philippines and Myanmar.

  • PIME’s transformation to internationalization also occurred at the invitation of local bishops in the missions. Today PIME has four seminaries: one in Italy, one in Brazil, and two in India (where we have founded ten dioceses over the last 150 years). PIME has also accepted as seminarians, candidates from Japan, China, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Argentina, Mexico, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, and the Ivory Coast. In the young churches where we are working, the Institute provides the pastoral care that the bishops request and provides an orientation for the local church for the mission to the non-Christians This is done above all by example: we are present on the frontiers of the Church in China, Cambodia, among the tribal peoples of India and Bangladesh, in the south of the Philippines, in Papua New Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Amazon region, and Mexico. Today PIME is giving a positive response to the request of local bishops also in the missionary animation of the churches where we are working (magazines, animation centers, and missionary seminaries). As a pontifical institute with the sole purpose of missionary work to the non-Christians, PIME strongly feels the responsibility of contributing according to its original charism to the demands of the Church in the third millennium: becoming the People of God.

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