In 1889, mother and daughter — Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard — answered a desperate plea for help from the Missions. The French missionary bishop of Nagazaki, Japan, wrote to the two women asking for help to keep his seminary open because he had run out of the funds necessary to help educate these young men to serve their people as priests. The bishop just did not have the funds to train these young Japanese men whom, he judged, would make excellent priests.
The Bigards came to his assistance and started a small group for this purpose in their native Caen, France. From these humble beginnings emerged the Society of St. Peter Apostle. Within five years of sending their first donation to Japan, the Bigards, and those whom they enlisted to help, were sending funds to seminaries in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Korea and China.
The goal of the Society of St. Peter Apostle then and now has been to invite individuals to support the education of candidates for the Catholic priesthood in the Developing World and to support the continued formation and training of priests, religious brothers and religious sisters in the mission lands.
In its first year, the Society of St. Peter Apostle sent assistance for some 2,700 seminarians in the Missions. Today, some 30,000 major seminarians, mostly in Africa and Asia, receive an annual subsidy of $700 per student.