San Paolo (Brazil). From 11 to 13 November 2022, the first Assembly of the Our Lady Aparecida (BAP) Province was held in Sao Paulo at the provincial headquarters after the new configuration of the Brazilian Provinces which took place in February 2021, when the Campo Grande, Porto Alegre, and São Paulo were unified in view of the re-signification of the Salesian charism and mission in the southern, south-eastern, and central-western regions of Brazil.

More than 100 participants were present at the event, including Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and lay people, representing the 25 FMA communities and works in the area.

The first face-to-face provincial meeting had as its theme the binomial “Synodality and Communion” and as its motto the biblical passage “He went down to Capernaum together with His mother, brothers, and His disciples” (Jn 2:12). The various moments were centered on the Acts of the XXIV General Chapter of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA), With Mary, being a ‘presence’ that generates life.

The Assembly opened with the words of the Provincial, Sr. Alaide Deretti, and with the “Missionary Pilgrimage”, on the theme “Speak missionary because your sister is listening to you”. The participants, divided into seven groups, were able to get to know and deepen the life and history of the FMA of the first missionary expedition (1877) and also of Sr. Maria Carolina Mazzarello, great-grandniece of Mother Mazzarello and missionary in Chile from 1928 to 1977.

On the first day, the summaries of the work carried out by the Educating Communities in preparation for the Assembly were presented, the result of the study of the Chapter Document. A round table followed in which the synthesis was studied from three different points of view: the visits of the Provincial to the Communities, the Chapter Document presented by Sr. Lucia Maistro, in which the most relevant aspects for the life of the BPA Province were highlighted, and a reflection on the biblical text of John (Jn 2:12) proposed by Sr. Dulce Hirata.

During the Assembly, a Feast of Thanksgiving was also celebrated for the jubilees of consecrated life of 27 FMA of 80, 70, 65, 60, 50, and 25 years of religious profession.

Another significant moment was the presentation of the Programming of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, offered by Sr. Paola Battagliola, Visiting Councilor who, in addition to the contents, illustrated the process of construction and involvement of all the Areas of animation and governance of the Institute.

The concrete contribution of the participants was seen in particular in the group work and in the moments of the plenary sessions, with which the ‘Horizon’ of the Province, the objectives, and concrete actions for each of the “priority choices” were defined of the XXIV General Chapter: Formation, Missionary Synodality, and Integral Ecology. These moments required great listening skills and generated sharing and reflections, as well as questions and concerns.

On the evening of the second day, the Assembly had a surprise: the musical “Stations – The journey of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians” created by the FMA, Salesians of Don Bosco, Novices, and two students of Mother Mazzarello Institute of San Paolo, which took the audience back 150 years, to the foundation of the FMA Institute, and 130, to the arrival of the first sisters on Brazilian soil.

The Assembly also deepened the reflection on the Chapter Deliberation, seeking concrete and ongoing paths of ecological conversion, to create a network in the assumption of the seven objectives of Laudato Si’ in the spirit of the Preventive System. The FMA and the laity matured the conviction that it is necessary to work in a capillary way, so that all the decisions and indications of the Assembly can reach the religious and educational communities.

Once the path with which the planning of the BAP Province for the next few years was outlined, the participants gathered by Areas of animation. It was a brief meeting, but a precious occasion for dialogue between sisters and laity, as well as intergenerational dialogue, to start a process of greater integration and synodality in province life.

The Provincial, Sr. Alaide Deretti, concluded the Assembly by giving space to gratitude and warmly inviting the participants to adopt, in local projects, the BAP “horizon”, the priority Choices, and the concrete actions of the Chapter Deliberation. Even the second year Novices, who will make their religious profession in January 2023, had the opportunity to thank the Assembly for participating in their steps and for the attention received during the formative period.