Milan (Italy). From 9 to 11 February 2024, the Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Mother Chiara Cazzuola, made a short visit to the Lombard Holy Family Province (ILO). It is a return to an already known land. In 2013, as Visiting Councilor, she had met all the sisters and visited all the works.

In the late afternoon of 9 February, she was welcomed at the Provincial House of Milan, Via Timavo, by the Provincial, Sister Stefania Saccuman, and by the FMA of Sister Teresa Valsè Pantellini and Mary Immaculate communities, with whom she spent an evening of fraternity.

The following day, after the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Vicar of the Lombard-Emilian Province of St. Charles Borromeo (ILE), Fr. Erino Leoni, SDB, she dedicated the morning to the Provincial Council.  She listened to their journey guidelines, the projects, the difficulties, and she offered precious charismatic and concrete indications.

In the afternoon, the long-awaited meeting with all the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, many in person, others, unable to move, online. An FMA representing each age group of profession, divided by decade, shared dreams with her and asked questions. Mother Chiara, in responding, did not hide the hardships of this historical time, but encouraged each of them to live it with great intensity. She invited them to “fully live our vocation and our mission in this time with the same educational passion with which we started at the beginning of our consecration.” And she urged to often ask themselves the question: “Where is my heart? Whom does my heart seek? It is an existential question that we must ask ourselves at every age of life, personally and as a community.”

In the dialogue, taking up a question posed by a Sister – “how can we live today a community model that is smaller, lighter, with structures that are less heavy, less large, thinking especially of younger sisters?” – offered this answer. “History is urging us to do this, to create open communities. Sharing with lay people and young people is a very important dream. The young people said it clearly in the survey done in preparation for the General Chapter, making two requests: ‘Be FMA; we want you to be among us’. The second is, ‘do not be afraid to open your home’.”

She said that some spiritual authors speak of the winter of religious life. She commented, “I do not see only winter. I understand that winter guards the seeds of spring. And I see that there is spring.”

To a Sister who asked how to make everyone understand that it is time to leave, she replied that “being ready to leave is a spiritual process of personal and community conversion. It is a process that does not end. We must be willing to live the spirituality of the exodus. If there is no such inner process, one does not go anywhere.” And starting today means making the FMA Houses prophetic works. How? “Prophetic works are thought of together. If we want them to last, thought, creation, and accompaniment must be shared.” Stressing the importance of intergenerationality in the Communities, she offered a phrase dear to her, “The roots must have faith in the flowers”.

At the end, a sweet snack awaited prepared by the young people of the CIOFS/ FP of Cinisello Balsamo and a short visit to the Duomo of Milan for a prayer in the heart of the city.  Mary Help of Christians Community of Milan, Via Bonvesin de la Riva, was waiting for her for Vespers and supper, another time of fraternity and joy.

Sunday 11 February, after the Eucharist presided over by the Provincial of the ILE Province, Fr. Roberto Dal Molin, SDB, Mother Chiara met with the local Animators and Councils.

Each Animator briefly presented a sprout that is being born in her Community after the General Chapter and, at the end, Mother took up the founding points of the Charism and some key ideas, encouraging the growth of these sprouts.


Another highly anticipated moment was on Sunday afternoon at the encounter with the laity and young people of the Educating Communities. It began with a series of testimonies that highlighted the steps of the journey that the Province is taking. A young man, three teachers and formators of Professional Formation, a family that works with young people in schools but also informally, the vocational community of Legnano, the FMA and SDB Youth Ministry Councilors all spoke.

After listening to the testimonies, Mother quoted and commented on a sentence of Don Bosco, “Being in many together increases joy, serves as an encouragement to endure the hardships … one communicates to the other one’s knowledge, ideas and so one learns from the other. Being in many who do good, animates us without realizing it (MB Vol. VII p.602).

It is the nucleus from which the Salesian seed developed that from the beginning involved lay people, young people, the clergy of Turin, other personalities, other vocations. Don Bosco valued the help of all and he learned from each one. We are called as Educating Communities to share Salesian spirituality and the secret of our work together starts from this. The values of Salesian spirituality also make us grow in our personal vocation.”

To further emphasize the importance of synodal work in living the Charism, Mother Chiara took up Don Bosco again:

“‘You shall accomplish the work that I begin. I sketch, you shall spread the colors.'” Don Bosco, the founder, understands that he cannot exhaust this Charism. We are part of this Charism that continues to spread its colors.”

Waiting for the assembly outside the hall there were still the young people of Professional Formation, who offered a rich snack prepared with their hands and a cake with the slogan of the Visit: “A dream to make grow”.

The day ended with the meeting between Mother Chiara and the FMA up to 15 years of profession, for a moment of great familiarity, dialogue, and joy. After a round of presentations, Mother relaunched the dialogue asking, “Are you cheerful? And if you are not, how are you?” Several Sisters spoke in an informal and sincere dialogue. They spoke about criteria of the significance of the works, the importance of discernment about the mission and personnel, how the mission should be ‘educated’: shared, seen as a response to a call.

Vespers were an expression of trust and gratitude for these two days that strengthened communion, deepened roots, energized the fire of charismatic passion:

“In this Vespers, we entrust to you, Lord, our dreams. As you guided Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, guide us also to respond in an authentic and prophetic way to the cry of the young people of our time. We thank you for the presence of Mother Chiara among us and ask you to give her your Spirit, so that she may continue to carry out with courage the delicate mission that you entrust to her”.

Photos: FlickrFMA


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