Aleppo (Syria). On 24 May 2023, the Educating Community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Aleppo, in Syria, of Jesus Adolescent Province (MOR), celebrated the Solemnity of Mary Help of Christians with a particular tone of praise and gratitude for the presence of Mary, for her help and her constant protection in this city where the suffering, given by a history of conflicts, has become even more intense because of the earthquake on 6 February 2023.
To celebrate with them the Feast so dear to the Salesian Family, was the General Treasurer of the FMA Institute, Sr. Ena Bolaños, present in Syria from 19 to 27 May for a short visit. She shares the objectives and the experience lived:
“Visiting Aleppo has been my desire since the earthquake of February 6. I was finally able to make it come true on this date, which I consider providential, because it allowed me to celebrate the great Solemnity of our Mother Help of Christians with the FMA and the Educating Community.
The visit was in the name of Mother General, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, of each of the sisters of the General Council and, I can say, in the name of the whole Institute, since the first objective was to make the Sisters and the Educating Community feel the closeness, accompaniment, prayer, and solidarity with which we participate from all over the world to continue to make our contribution in supporting the initial emergency and in the subsequent phase of reconstruction.
During my visit in approaching this situation, I was able to verify two realities. We had seen the first from the news: that of a destroyed city, hit by two great calamities, the war and the earthquake. The second – even greater and which moved me deeply – that of a people on their feet, who continue to walk with faith and hope, to live and seek solutions to many situations that hit families hard, especially young people. I have seen serene, welcoming people who, in the midst of pain and the lack of many things, know how to appreciate even the moment of celebration and be grateful for the smallest things, like the great solidarity through which they experience that they are not alone.
On 24 May, we lived the day as a family celebration, gathered to celebrate our Mother. The whole community was involved in the preparations. Throughout the month in the afternoon, they recited the Rosary, invoking Mary for children, young people, families, for peace, and for all the needs of the world. On 23 May, the eve of the Feast, everything was movement, activity, joy. Even the most hidden places had to be cleaned and decorated and the young people were responsible for these activities. At the same time, a group of women prepared the candles with the glass and the image of Mary Help of Christians, while other groups were engaged in the liturgy and in the decorations, attentive to the smallest details.
The Eucharist was presided over by Fr. Pier Jabloyan, Director of the Community of the Salesians of Don Bosco, and concelebrated by Fr. Georges Fattal, SDB, and by some priests of the Greek-Catholic Church.
I can affirm that Mary Help of Christians is a concrete and living presence in the Educating Community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Aleppo. The spirit of the celebration, the atmosphere of prayer, praise, and joy, allowed me to verify that Don Bosco’s certainty “Mary walks in this house” is a concrete reality for this Community. In fact, it experiences that, just as Mary was attentive to serve her cousin Elizabeth and to intercede at the wedding at Cana where there was no wine, so she continues to be attentive to their needs, to make herself present through the many people of the world who follow the events of these people with participation and ensure that their help is not lacking.
Our sisters, Sr. Graziella and Sr. Jannette, live in a house with ‘open doors’, where children, young people, women can feel at home. They are always available to give their help to those in need and seeking for it. A special detail, especially in young people, is the spirit of solidarity and service; they are not closed in on their needs, but try to help and serve others in need of help.
I conclude by thanking all the Provinces, Preprovinces, Educating Communities, Past Pupils, Salesian Cooperators, benefactors, friends, relatives, and many generous people who have shown themselves in solidarity to collaborate in this emergency and support our Community of Aleppo.
We know that after the first emergency many needs continue. The consequences of a disaster like that of an earthquake are large and varied. Driven by our educational charism, which puts children, young people, and women first, we want to continue to respond not only to basic needs – food, shelter, clothing, health – but also to offer education that responds to the future of children, of the young people, and families of this area.
For this reason, the second objective of my visit was to dialogue and think, together with the Community, the Provincial, Sr. Charlotte Greer, and the Provincial Economer, Sr. Jacinta Saldanha, the answers we can continue to give to “be a presence that generates life” in this city. The decisions taken and those being discerned are possible thanks to the economic aid received from various parts of the world.
For this I express my THANKS, which is the voice of our Mother, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, for your sensitivity to the pain of humanity, which has become concrete and continues to be present in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of Aleppo, earthquake victims.
May Mary, Help of humanity, continue to intercede as she did at the Wedding at Cana, so that the wine of joy, hope, and peace may not be lacking”.
It is possible to send contributions and offerings in the manner indicated on the Website of the FMA Institute, designating as the reason: for the Earthquake Emergency in Turkey and Syria.