Rome (Italy). On 21 April 2022 the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Mother Ersilia Canta Community of Rome, of the Preprovince Mary Mother of the Church (RMC), experienced a formative day of visiting the Generalate of the FMA Institute (RCG). This is a visit that is part of the formation of the Spirituality Course, integrating various elements reflected on and studied in the various contents of the two-year course.
The Generalate is the house of welcome and the irradiation of the mission of the FMA Institute throughout the world. It is the home of Mother General and her Council, with an intercultural community that welcomes Sisters from 5 continents, at the service of the Institute or passing through for some mission or time of formation. It also welcomes some FMA and religious students from other Congregations studying in the Universities of Rome, the new missionaries who are preparing for the mission ad gentes, and Sisters at the service of the house, of Mother General, and of the various Animation Sectors of the Institute.
The students of Casa Canta were able to visit the Archives and the General Secretariat of the Institute, the Charism Exhibition, the Marian Exhibition, the offices of the Social Communications Sector, with the General Councilor Sr. Maria Ausilia De Siena and her collaborators, and above all meeting many sisters who live the mission entrusted to them with a strong sense of belonging and love for the Institute.
Sr. Carla Castellino, Animator of Mary Help of Christians Community, warmly welcomed the group and explained the mission and composition of the Community.
Mother General Emeritus, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, then addressed her word to them, encouraging them to experience this period of the Spirituality course as an opportunity to better prepare themselves for the mission and to be open to the needs of the Institute. In the context of the Easter celebrations, she reminded that Salesian spirituality is always a spirituality marked by the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection.
Subsequently, Sr. Maria Luisa Nicastro, Secretary General, and Sr. Piera Cavaglià, Secretary Emeritus, led the group in the visit to the Historical Archive and to the General Secretariat. It was a solemn moment, in which it was possible to touch with hand, heart, and mind the care and attention to the documentation necessary for the history of the Institute, the sources concerning the FMA, Provinces, communities, and educational works.
All the documents seen and contemplated are testimonies of the living history of 150 years, of the care of the Institute so that the lived history is documented, preserved, deepened, and made usable for studies and to tell a living and current story of a charism that has been incarnated in history.
In the afternoon, there was a guided tour of the Charism Exhibit and the Marian Exhibit. Sr. Angela Marzorati, collaborator of the General Secretariat, guided the students in the contemplation of the Charism made ‘visible’ through the sources and the history of the Institute narrated through many faces, names, symbols, images, objects, sounds, documents, which speak of a gift of love for young people.
This experience brought back the words of St. John Paul II, in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: “You not only have a glorious story to remember and to tell, but a great story to build! Look to the future in which the Spirit projects you to do great things with you.” (VC 110). In addition the words were recalled of Pope Francis in his visit to the Chapter members on 22 October 2021: “the charism is not an embalmed relic, it is not a museum. The charism is a living reality; it is life that creates and goes ahead. All this requires creative fidelity (cf. Acts of GC XXIV, 132) ”.
Towards the end of the visit, the Mother General of the FMA Institute, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, met the FMA and left them her message. She spoke of the joy experienced when for the first time she had an original document of Don Bosco in her hands that he had written to the FMA and thus she deeply understood the importance of keeping the documents that tell the history of the Institute. She then highlighted the importance of the Spirituality Course which is not just an experience of study, but of life. The Provinces, the Sisters, the laity, and the young expect that what has been studied and lived will be shared. Finally, she wished everyone to be happy FMA’s, who enthusiastically give their lives to Jesus and to young people.
At the end, the Vicar General, Sr. Maria del Rosario Garcia Ribas, shared the experience of the first steps of the new General Council during the recently concluded Plenum, in which the Program for the six-year period was drawn up. The central word of her message was ‘synodality’, an experience that the Councilors lived with Mother during the Plenum and which they left as a mandate to live in the communities. Working in synodality can take more time, but it is the result of a journey made together, shared in communion, a guarantee of fruitfulness. The students also expressed particular gratitude to Sr. Piera Cavaglià, who organized the day and above all shared her experience, life wisdom, and love for the Institute with enthusiasm and passion.
The theologian Timothy Radcliff writes that “the fundamental purpose of study is the acquisition of a memory. And this not so much to know a number of facts; we study the past to discover the seeds of the future that we cannot imagine”(Sing a New Song, Bologna, EDB 2002, 72). Hence the wish to the FMA students that the lived experience, the various encounters, and what it was possible to contemplate, will increasingly strengthen in them the joy of belonging to the Institute and to the Salesian vocation, opening them to grateful memory, to hope, and to daring towards the future, in the footprints left by the courageous FMA who preceded them on the journey of history.