Rome (Italy). On 16 August 2022, we celebrate the 207th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco (1815-2020). John Melchiorre Bosco, son of Margherita Occhiena and of Francesco Bosco, was born on 16 August 1815, in the Becchi hamlet of the Morialdo fraction, Municipality of Castelnuovo d’Asti.
In the 150th anniversary of the Foundation of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, it is significant to remember that St. John Bosco founded the FMA Institute “as a response of salvation to the profound hopes of girls and young women” (FMA Const. 1). “In the unique divine plan God enkindled the same experience of apostolic charity in St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, making her a special, active collaborator in the foundation of the Institute” (FMA Const. 2).
The Cronistoria of the FMA Institute recounts that on 15 or 20 September 1864, Fr. Pestarino, radiant with joy, presented himself to the three Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, to inform them that Don Bosco, accompanied by a hundred boys, would be staying in Mornese in the month of October, on the Feast of the Maternity of the Virgin Mary (Chron. I, 147).
He asked them to start providing food and accommodation in the Borgoalto farmhouse, while he would undertake to ask the Mornesini for help with mattresses and food. Finally, Don Bosco was arriving in Mornese, who two years earlier had sent Mary Domenica and Petronilla two medals of Our Lady through Fr. Pestarino with his paternal advice, “Pray well, but do as much good as you can especially to young girls and do everything possible to prevent sin, even if it were a single venial sin”.
He had in his heart the conviction that the hour of God had come, so that what was already done in Valdocco for the boys would be done for the girls. Even a providential dream he had in 1862, set in Piazza Vittorio in Turin, confirmed this thought: many young girls turned to him and insisted on not being abandoned, and the Virgin Help of Christians invited him to indulge them saying: “They are my daughters, take care of them”.
Thus, the visit to Mornese took place from 7 to 9 October 1864. This event was the first encounter with the Daughters of the Immaculate. At the end, Mary Domenica confided to her friend Petronilla that she had felt something extraordinary while listening to Don Bosco:
“It seemed to her that Don Bosco’s words were like the echo of a language that she felt in her heart without knowing how to express it; like the translation of her own sentiment; like something that had always been expected and had finally come,” so much so that she would later exclaim, “Don Bosco is a saint, he is a saint and I feel it!”.
On the last day of his stop, Don Bosco saw with his own eyes their workroom and oratory for the girls. After Vespers, he greeted the Daughters of the Immaculate, Mary Domenica and Petronilla, who were moved at seeing Providence manifest itself:
“The good Father looked moved and blessed small Mornese, where poor daughters, unaware of everything, were sowing with full hands his same grain and had begun to reap copious wheat” (Cron. 1, 151).
The Marian medal, the feast of the Virgin’s Maternity, their common recognition of themselves as part of a larger project, were the clear signs that everything was taking place under the gaze of Our Lady and of Providence. Since the meeting of the Founders in Mornese, Mary showed herself to be the Mother of the FMA Institute and of the poorest and most abandoned young girls.
Sacred Scripture is the guarantee that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rm 11:29). The 150 years since the foundation of the FMA Institute are the evidence that God’s promises and His plan of salvation have never failed. This certainty encourages us to live today and in the future with new vitality and creativity, the generative power of the Charism (Acts GC XXIV), confiding in the fidelity of God and in the powerful hand of the Help of Christians.