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extent influenced by the Fujian experience, the Missions Etrangeres de Paris priests established the institute of virgins in their mission in the 1740s. Under this system, single women consecrated their lives to the service of God and the mission. Usually bound by a private vow of chastity, they continued to live with their families, where they instructed the women and children. In Sichuan they were also involved in external evangelization and the care of abandoned girls. The rules for such women concerning the formation of character and the cultivation of a religious life and Christian virtues, especially chastity, were approved by Propaganda Fide in 1784 and further elaborated by the Sichuan Synod of 1803. These rules remained in force well into the twentieth century. Thus the essential value of the virgins to the apostolate was recognized. Indeed, in times of persecution they became pillars of the faith within extended kinship networks and local Christian communities.

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