Rome (Italy). August 2021 marks the 95th anniversary of the entrance of the Servant of God Sr. Antonieta Böhm into the Novitiate of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
It is a significant anniversary because, as the Constitutions of the FMA Institute state, it is “the period of real initiation into religious life” in which one ‘seeks to assume the identity of the Daughter of Mary Help of Christians’ (C 90).
Born on 22 September 1907 in Bottrop (Germany), a town in the north between the Rhineland and Westphalia, after the death of her parents, Antonieta lived with her brother in Essen Borbeck and attended the oratory of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Here she meets the FMA; she is fascinated by them and the desire to follow them and to be like them grows in her.
Antonieta enters as a Postulant in the FMA Institute in January of 1926, and on 5 August 1926 she enters St. Joseph Novitiate in Nizza Monferrato (Asti), in Italy, since Germany did not yet have a Novitiate.
The information on this stage of Sister Antonieta’s formation can be found in the Chronicle of St. Joseph Novitiate and above all through her letters, in which she often recounts her experiences in that House.
A video prepared by Sr. Guadalupe Chávez, FMA Vice Postulator of the Cause of Canonization of Sr. Antonieta Böhm, conveys some episodes recounted by the Servant of God in a letter written on the occasion of the Centenary of the House, celebrated in 1995, to Sister Margherita Giudice, who was the Animator of St. Joseph House, formerly the Novitiate, in Nizza Monferrato of Mary Help of Christians Province (IPI).
In the year 1926, 74 novices of the first year made their entrance who together with those of the second year, were a total of 115 novices. The Novitiate Formator was Sr. Angelina Bracchi.
“How many unforgettable memories in the International Novitiate …” recounts Sr. Antonieta.
In the Novitiate, Sr. Antonieta was able to get to know closely personalities such as Blessed Fr. Philip Rinaldi; Mother Eulalia Bosco, niece of the Founder, St. John Bosco; Mother Marina Coppa, and Mother Clelia Genghini, General Councilors of the FMA Institute. She was taught by Fr. Ferdinando Maccono, Vice-postulator of the Cause of Canonization of Mother Mazzarello. Among the novitiate companions was Sr. Ersilia Canta, who later became Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (1969-1981).
Sr. Antonieta continues in her letter: “How I recall with joy those brief visits of the Mothers to the Novitiate of St. Joseph …”. They are the memories of the Councils of the Superiors on visits to the Novitiate, which the Servant of God kept in her memory and heart.
In this year in preparation for the 150th Anniversary of the Institute and on her 95th anniversary of entrance into the Novitiate, may the Servant of God, Sr. Antonieta Böhm, intercede for the Novices of the FMA Institute, so that they may grow in the authentic desire for and commitment to Holiness.