Rome (Italy). The date of 23 May 1872 marks the arrival of the first future Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at the Collegio of Mornese, the home of the foundation of the Institute. 150 years after this event, Sr. Piera Cavaglià, Secretary General emeritus, offers the historical and charismatic details:
Since 8 May 1872, the day on which the Municipal Council of Mornese established the possibility of this site for the first group that was preparing to be Salesian religious, preparations were in full swing in the Immaculate House. The rooms had to be cleared in order to leave the house to the parish priest.
A few days earlier, Mary Domenica Mazzarello and Petronilla went to the Collegio to prepare the small rooms for the Community and on the evening of May 23, they waited for the people to retire to their homes, so as not to expose their poor household goods to the public, notes the Cronistoria (vol. I, 284), each took on what her shoulders could hold, and went off to the new home. They did several times, in the most prefect silence, until the house to be given to the parish priest was completely empty.
The next day they would return to clean it, before handing over the keys to Fr. Pestarino, owner of the building.
It is interesting to note that the silkworms, which constituted an economic resource for the community, also moved. That year they had put in more than usual and were worried about changing the environment even for those little creatures, but they were convinced that obedience would work miracles for them too. And so it happened, even the worms were happy in the new house, which was more spacious. From the proceeds of the sale, they will buy the material for the first Profession.
When Don Bosco had consented that the small community be placed in the Immaculate House, he set the condition of self-sustainability. It had to be ensured “that the Daughters could provide for themselves, with their work, for all the expenses inherent in life, so that they would not find themselves in the unfortunate need to have recourse to Fr. Pestarino’s help or, worse still, to go back, to everyone’s dismay and give a bad impression to the people” (Cronistoria I, 187).
May 24 at the Collegio was an indescribable day of celebration for the community gathered in the chapel that had been blessed by Don Bosco in 1867. Mary Help of Christians, “the most tender Mother wanted her daughters in the house prepared for them by her foreseeing heart” (Cronistoria I, 285).
After the Eucharistic celebration and the meditation on Mary, which Fr. Pestarino offered every day of the month of May drawing on Muzzarelli’s book, with joyful educational solicitude Mary Domenica and the community ‘quickly’ prepared the workshop so that it was ready to receive at the feast the girls who were all excited about the novelty, and happy to be able to enjoy the largest and most beautiful rooms of the Collegio.
Before evening, the community had another clear proof of the help of Mary Help of Christians. Rosina Mazzarello, Petronilla’s niece, and Maria Poggio, who were previously uncertain about their religious vocation, presented themselves to Mary Domenica Mazzarello and finally decided to join the religious family of Don Bosco. Petronilla, Mary Domenica’s close friend, recalled after many years that as soon as they arrived at the Collegio and were discreetly arranged, they immediately began to observe the Rule given to them by Don Bosco exactly, also for times of community prayer.
And so, with small steps, but with great desire and commitment, they were preparing for the Foundation of the FMA Institute, which would have its official date on 5 August 1872 with the first 11 religious and four novices. A religious family ‘entirely of Mary’ began its journey in the Church to be a gift of love and education for the girls of Mornese and later for many other nations of the world.