Unlike the other Societies, the Missionary Union of the Clergy has as its immediate and specific purpose the promotion of missionary work and the spread of the missions, not through aid, but through the direct commitment of those who, like the apostles, have received the command: Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. . ." (Mt 28:19) The Union was founded by Blessed Father Paolo Manna and recognized by Pope Benedict XV on 31 October 1916. In his Apostolic Letter Graves et Increscentes, on the 50th anniversary of the Foundation of the PMU, Pope Paul VI declares that "Just as Christ should be called the First Missionary, so all Priests, in virtue of the Sacred Order they have received, should be considered as missionaries". A statement that affirms an indispensable doctrine and an ever more imperative duty, also through the numerous ecclesial documents that declare this: (Evangelii Nuntiandi 68; Postquam Apostoli 5; Redemptoris Missio 67).
In the same Letter Paul VI defined the Pontifical Missionary Union (PMU) as "the soul of the other Mission Aid Societies". Paolo Manna was born in Avellino (Italy) on 16 January 1872 and, after becoming a missionary of the Pontifical Foreign Mission Institute (PIME), he is sent to Burma. In 12 years of missionary activity he would return to Italy three times on serious medical grounds, the last time, to his great sorrow, to remain there. Thus he discovers God's will for him: to make him, through his writings and publications, a missionary animator of the whole Church: the missionary of the Mission. The aim of his work is not only to announce the progress of faith in the world and to help missionaries with prayers and offerings, but above all to make known the duty to enlarge the Church with more missionaries and with the indigenous clergy, so that she will be able to carry out her work to the full. As director of the magazine Le Missioni Cattolice and particularly with his first work Missionari autem pauci (The Missionaries are Few), he arouses an irresistible surge of enthusiasm for the Mission and a large number of missionary vocations: thus he begins his great task of animating all the clergy for the missions.
His dream of founding a Missionary Union of the Clergy is realized with the approval of Pope Benedict XV, urgently entreated by Blessed Guido Maria Conforti, Bishop of Parma and founder of the Xaverian Missionary Fathers. The Union's First International Congress (3 January 1922) declares the necessity of missiology teaching in seminaries, a science that was still unknown in Catholic formation institutes.
In order to encourage many vocations for the missions, in his increasingly numerous writings Fr. Manna insists on the irreplaceable role of priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the formation of the missionary awareness of the people of God. The Union spreads rapidly after the Pope recommends its presence in every diocese in his EncyclicalMaximum Illud (1919). With a great activity of preaching and publications, Fr. Manna inflames ecclesiastics and laity alike with the missionary ideal, while he challenges young people to realize this ideal. For him there is no such thing as a missionary vocation distinct from the priestly or Christian vocation: his motto is "All Missionaries!" For Fr. Manna all the baptized, but above all every priest is by his very nature and by definition missionary". He complains that for a great part of the clergy "a great elementary truth" has been obscured, "namely, that the primary function of Church is the evangelization of the world - the whole world".
This universal missionary spirit must be integrated into the spirit of unity with those whom he first calls our "Separated Brethren ", "an essential condition for the total triumph of the Gospel in the world". With his studies and dynamic affirmations Blessed Fr. Manna prophetically precedes the declarations of the Second Vatican Council, particularly Ad Gentes 2, 39, Lumen Gentium 28, Optatam Totius 20 and Presbyterorum Ordinis 10. Together with Priests also Religious men and women, as well as Consecreted Laity are natural mission workers. In 1949, with the decree Huic Sacro, the Congregation de Propaganda Fide offers these too membership in the Union. With the decree of 28 October, 1956 Puis XII confers the title <> on the Union, and it is therefore renamed the "Pontifical Missionary Union of the Clergy, Religious and Consecrated Laity". More simply, it is known as the "Pontifical Missionary Union" (PMU).
Fr. Manna also served his Institute from 1924 to 1934 as Superior General. The fruit of this commitment are hisObservations on the Modern Method of Evangelization in which he proposes a special and different formation for a greater number of indigenous seminarians and the constitution of local Churches entrusted to the local clergy. In his later years, as in a dream, he outlines his great, prophetic and far-reaching missionary plan: Our "Churches" and the Propagation of the Gospel. On the eve of the Second Vatican Council, he invites the older Churches to establish missionary seminaries so that they may participate directly in the evangelization of the world and give help to young mission Churches. Father Paolo Manna dies on 15 September 1952 and is declared Blessed by John Paul II on 4 November 2001.
The PMU Strives:
- To promote missionary consciousness among seminarians, priests and religious.
- To animate all animators of the People of God for the Mission (RM 84) by spreading and promoting the other PMS.
- To foster Christian unity so that "they may be so perfected in unity that the world will recognize that it was you who sent me..." (In 17:23).
- To put all the Church "in a state of mission".
- Meditate on Sacred Scripture in order to understand God's universal plan of salvation and the missionary nature of his Church.
- Read and study the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Popes' missionary Encyclicals.
- See one's own history and the history of one's Church in a worldwide perspective, in order to think and act on a worldwide level.
- Ask the "Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest" (Mt. 9:37-38).
- Celebrate the Missionary feasts: Lent of prayer and solidarity; missionary October with WMS; St Francis Xavier, Priests' and Brothers' Mission Day; St Teresa of the Child Jesus, Sisters' Mission Day; World Day of the Sick, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
- Subscribe to national missionary publications and obtain books of Missiology or books that deal with the world's problems for a profound knowledge of Mission and the reality of Religions and Peoples, necessary in a globalised world.
- Make an annual contribution to the PMU for its animation activities.
- Collaborate with the National Director of the PMS, his Secretary for the PMU and the Diocesan Director, in the organization and activity of missionary animation through the PMU.
- Publicise the official publications of the PMU International Office: Omnis Terra (in Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese) and the Course: Studies for Mission (in Italian,English, French and Spanish).