Our Story

Part of the Pauline Family founded by Bl. James Alberione
by Fr. Michael Goonan of the Society of St. Paul

Fr. James Alberione (1884-1971) apostle of the mass media and founder of the Pauline Family, was will be beatified by Pope John Paul II on Sunday, April 27.
Pope Paul VI called him 'a marvel of our age'; Pope John Paul II said he was the 'prophet of the new evangelisation'. These two expressions sum up the person and works of this remarkable figure of the 20th century.

James, from a devout farming family in the Cuneo region of Italy, saw from an early age that the 20th century would be an era of communication, and that the Church would have to make use of the mass media in all its forms to communicate the Gospel.

He recognised, too, the important role that women could play in parish life. Above all, he recognised the foundational importance of prayer.

He insisted that all members of his religious family be 'contemplatives in action' and founded one institute specifically to pray for the mission of his religious family

Four of the congregations he founded are present in Australia and New Zealand - the Society of St Paul, the Daughters of St Paul, the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master and the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd "Pastorelle".

The union of lay faithful, the Pauline Co-operators, has also been established in Australia.

Besides these institutes, Fr James (pictured below) founded the Queen of Apostles Sisters who work in vocation discernment and three aggregated institutes: for diocesan clergy, laymen and laywomen.

What is the secret of this man who Pope Paul VI spoke of in 1968 as "humble, silent, tireless, contained in his thoughts, which flows from prayer to work, always ready to read the signs of the times"?

How did James Alberione impart to so many people his desire to communicate the Gospel to the men and women of the 20th century with the latest technology of modern communications?

Central to his life was a great love for the Eucharist. He often said to his sons and daughters: "You were born from the tabernacle."

A foundational episode occurred during his period of studies in the seminary of Alba.

On the night of December 31, 1900, James joined the other seminarians in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral.

At a certain point, as he himself describes it using the third person, "he felt deeply obliged to prepare himself and to do something for the Lord and for the men and women with whom he would spend his life …

"Not long before there had been a congress (the first one he had attended); he had fully grasped (the sociologist) Toniolo's calm but fascinating speech. He had read Leo XIII's invitation to pray for the coming century.

"Both spoke of the Church's needs, of the new means of evil, of the duty to combat press with press, organisation with organisation, of the need to communicate the Gospel message to the masses ... Projecting himself mentally into the future he felt that in the new century generous people would experience what he was feeling; and that teamed up into an organisation they could bring about what Toniolo kept on repeating: 'Unite: if the enemy finds us alone he will defeat us one by one'."

On that night James Alberione spent at least four hours in intense prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He had entered the cathedral a mere boy of 16 but left it a man with a mission.

He had received a light from the tabernacle that gave him a mission to serve humanity in a special way in the 20th century.

Preaching from the pulpit and teaching in the classroom had been Christianity's tried and true method of keeping the faith alive and spreading it to others since the beginning.

Now, faced with the industrial revolution and rapid changes in European and world culture, Fr Alberione believed that the Church had to use technology to respond to the evil that was being spread through the newspapers and the press of the late 19th century.

Fr James initially had in mind an organisation of lay specialists working in the media.

However, guided by the Spirit, he chose to develop a number of religious congregations and aggregated institutes, each of which would communicate Christ in their own way.

He founded the Society of St Paul in 1914 and the Daughters of St Paul a year later to communicate Christ through the printing and diffusion of religious books and magazines, especially the Bible.

In time their apostolic works were broadened to include ministry in radio, film, television, video and, more recently, electronic communication.

In Australia the priests and brothers of the Society of St Paul are involved in a publishing apostolate through St Pauls Publications, Sydney, and operate St Pauls Book Centre in Brisbane.

The Daughters of St Paul operate Pauline Books and Media in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and have recently commenced publishing Echoing the Word, an on-line magazine for catechists.

Fr James formed the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master in 1924 with a special ministry of prayer. In Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand, they are dedicated to the Eucharistic, priestly and liturgical ministry.

The Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd "Pastorelle" were founded in 1938 to collaborate with priests in pastoral ministry. In Australia they serve in a number of parishes in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Fr James wanted the members of his congregations to reach out to people of today with the same zeal, flexibility and intelligence that St Paul did in the first century.

In fact, he insisted always that it was St Paul who should be considered the true founder of the Pauline Family.

The priest's gift was to recognise that utilising the discoveries of science and technology in the field of communication would be an important way of reaching out to people in the 20th century.

In describing the Pauline Family in its various congregations and institutes, Fr James said a "close relationship exists among them, because they were all born from the tabernacle. Only one spirit reigns: to live Jesus Christ and serve the Church.

"There are those who represent all of them, interceding for all before the tabernacle; there are those who diffuse, as from above, the doctrine of Jesus Christ; and there are those who come into contact with individual souls."

Fr James realised that the pulpits of the Pauline Family would reach beyond the churches and schools and touch countless people who would never think of entering a church or seeking out a priest or religious for advice.

Today members of the Pauline family are present in 63 countries, reaching into homes and market places through the media, promoting human values and helping people to know Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.

Supplementing their media presence is personal contact in parishes and in book and media centres, plus unceasing prayer.

As the world becomes ever smaller thanks to mass communications, the mission of Fr Alberione's sons and daughters continues to be of paramount importance in ensuring that the voice of Christ is heard in the century that has just begun.

The former Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Edward Bede Clancy, presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of Fr James Alberione in St Martha's Church, Strathfield on Sunday, April 27. (Fr Michael Goonan ssp)

visit www.pastorelle.org