London (Great Britain). On 11 March 2023, ten Daughters of Mary Help of Christians from St. Thomas of Canterbury Province (GBR), together with various representatives of the Salesian Family, gathered in Salesian Sacred Heart Parish in Battersea, London, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Foundation of the FMA Institute (1872-2022).
The Eucharistic Celebration, presided over by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Southwark, Msgr. Philip Moger, and concelebrated by seven Salesians of Don Bosco, was a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for these 150 years of fruitfulness of the Institute. Sr. Leslie Sándigo, General Councilor for the Salesian Family, and the GBR Provincial, Sr. Pauline Clark were present.
The participation of the children and young people of Sacred Heart Primary School and of St. John Bosco Secondary School bore witness to the educational presence of the FMA in Battersea over the last 120 years.
In 1902, the first Salesian Missionaries arrived in Battersea and despite difficulties with the language, they began their work for the young people, supporting the work of the Salesian Fathers, and gradually moving into the area of education in the local Primary School. The FMA have thus become a vital part of Battersea in the School, in the parish, and in the territory, always putting young people at the center.
The liturgy, solemn and well prepared, was full of references to the Foundation of the Institute: from the Well and the Tree of Remembrance, with the names of the places of all the FMA presences, to the symbols of the history of the Province presented at the Offertory.
The public renewal of vows by the FMA was an emotional expression of the commitment to follow Jesus with an undivided and renewed heart.
The Provincial, Sr. Pauline, expressed herself as follows:
As we celebrate 150 years of our Institute, we thank all the Sisters who have worked here in Battersea over the years and, as our Province is once again re-signifying itself, we rejoice that Battersea will continue to be a vital presence for us in future. Anchoring ourselves to the certainty of the presence of Mary Help of Christians, to the strength of Mother Mazzarello’s words: “Courage! Let us go forward with a big and generous heart” (L 47,12), and to the invitation of Pope Francis in his visit to the Chapter Members on 22 October 2021, “Do not forget the grace of our origins”, we look to the future with hope.
As we renew our Vows at this celebratory Mass, let us remember Don Bosco’s words, “The Institute will have a great future if you keep yourselves simple, poor, and mortified”, and we ask Mary Help of Christians to encourage other young women to join us as women consecrated to the service of young people. The General Chapter encouraged us to rediscover the value of our “Presence” and we thank Mary for Her special presence in the Institute and for Her “powerful help”, which encourages us to go forward on the journey with enthusiasm, feeling “accompanied, preceded, led by Her.”
After the Eucharist, Salesian joy exploded in the convivial moment prepared by the friends of the Parish, in which thanks were given, memories were shared, and everyone’s affection was tangible. All this was made possible thanks to a woman, Mother Mazzarello, who, together with her first Sisters, courageously said “Yes” 150 years ago.