Nizza Monferrato (Italy). From 18 to 20 August 2023, in Nizza Monferrato (AT), at O. L. of Grace House of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Mary Help of Christians Province (IPI) a spiritual retreat was held for lay men and women on the theme: “You also come aside”.
About twenty women and some couples gathered “at Our Lady” in the large Don Bosco Courtyard where many of them, as students or “residents”, played with vivacity and attended school until they reached maturity. “It was a beautiful and serene time of encounter, on the thread of the heart’s memory that recalls teachers, assistants, school counselors, and principals, some a little severe, but all the participants are aware of having lived in this environment rich in history, in culture and faith, the most beautiful years of life,” says Mrs. Sisi Cravera, one of the participants.
Fr. Alejandro Guevara Rodríguez, Salesian of Don Bosco, Director of one of the SDB communities of Valdocco (Turin) and world animator of the Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA) accompanied the group on the three-day spiritual journey.
“We are immensely loved by God, desired, wanted, embraced by Him. He created us out of love and to love, to radiate this love in the world, starting with the closest people. Faith is a trusting and faithful response to this love.” This is the good news proclaimed by the preacher.
“On this journey, we look to Mary who is our guide with her triple experience of love and faith: the Here I am of the Annunciation, the Magnificat of the Visitation, and the Stabat of the cross, the culmination of a journey of great love.” Fr. Alejandro actually began the meditation with the Magnificat, as “Mary can sing this hymn of praise because she has the perception of life totally illuminated by the certainty that she is in the hands and in the heart of God. Hence the praise and gratitude to that God who does great things in those who trust Him and open the door to Him.”
The meditations were proposed with depth and simplicity, based on the Word of God and concrete life experience, so as to descend to the heart and open horizons of light.
The days unfolded in silence, prayer, meditations by the priest, and culminated in the Eucharist celebrated in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace. Even the walls of this House opened by St. John Bosco in 1878 and inhabited for two years by St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello (1879-1881), speak of a history of holiness and education that has reached from then to today, amid new challenges and opportunities.
Sr. Paola Cuccioli, responsible for the Historical Archives, daily accompanied the group on a visit to some significant area of the Mother House of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, ensuring that everyone could rediscover the meaning of this place where Mary Help of Christians is at home, “walks and blesses,” as Don Bosco said.
Although coming from different places – Nizza, St. Stefano Belbo, Chieri, Asti, Roccaverano, Turin, Refrancore – there is profound harmony of affection and the search for God among the participants. All were aware of the need for prayer and renewed encounter with the God of life, love, and joy. They therefore pledged to avoid distractions – cell phone, agenda, work… – and to concentrate on the essential, meeting God and themselves from His perspective.
The FMA of the Community did their utmost in preparing readings and songs, visits to the house, as well as coffee breaks with delicacies and lunches in community joy, to support not only the spirit, but also the body.
The days anchored in Jesus and Mary, in the style of the Founders, “flew by” very quickly, although the promise remains to repeat this experience, which is enriching for everyone from many points of view.
In fact, it was in continuity – albeit in a different form – with that which Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello lived every year, summoning young women, especially teachers, for a week in August of Spiritual Exercises. They were aware that guidance and spiritual formation are of vital importance for everyone, especially for lay men and women called to “be salt and light” in a society as full of challenges as it is of the thirst for God.
Encouraged by silence, prayer, listening to the Word of God, encountering the Father’s mercy, and serene interaction with the group, the participants returned home happy, aware of having lived a graced experience. This is to attested by the verification completed at the end, with evaluations of excellence!