Rome (Italy). From 7 to 27 February 2024, the Conference for Novice Formators organized by the Formation Sector of the Institute took place in Rome, at the Generalate of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, on the theme: “To be Novice Formators today: How to accompany and personalize formation by activating new formative processes?”

The event was attended by 23 Formators from different parts of the world, united by the desire to strengthen their formation skills in the light of the emerging challenges and increasingly complex needs of the new generations. The main objective of the Conference was to strengthen the formative skills of the Novice Formators to promote an integral formation of novices, centered on the person and accompanied by the Formation Community.

Mary Help of Christians Community of the Generalate welcomed the participants in the typical Salesian family spirit, making them feel ‘at home’ throughout the month, as the participants stressed in expressing their gratitude.

On the opening day 7 February, Sister Nilza Fátima de Moraes, Councillor for Formation, in her official opening address and presentation of the Conference, introduced the works as this way: “In these days, we are invited to let ourselves be involved to find new charismatic paths, to elaborate vital syntheses that give more quality to our service as formators of the new generations of FMA, making formation more personalized.”

The Superior General of the FMA Institute, Mother Chiara Cazzuola in her intervention resumed the words of Pope Francis in his Discourse to the participants in General Chapter 24, on 22 October 2021: “To reawaken the original freshness of the vocational fruitfulness of the Institute”. During the Conference, this was a key perspective to respond to the needs of today’s world. From this viewpoint, Mother then presented Art. 92 of the Constitutions of the Institute, emphasizing some characteristics of the Novice Formators: she is a person of communion; a woman of relationship, of Salesianity; a communicator of God; she is able to walk in time. The juxtaposition with Letter 18 to the novice Laura Rodriguez, to admire the concreteness, the wisdom, the ability to relate of Mother Mazzarello, was a moment of further inspiration for the service of the Formators.

Precious were also the interventions of Sister Piera Cavaglià, former Secretary General of the Institute, on the figure of Mother Mazzarello as spiritual guide, that made us reflect on the first Novice Formators.

Sister Pina del Core, Former Dean and Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Faculty of Education Sciences “Auxilium”, in her various interventions accompanied the group with her presence that was both professional and fraternal, towards a deeper understanding of formation processes and formative models.

Sister Milena Stevani, Professor emeritus of the Auxilium Faculty, presented some themes regarding the affective maturation and interpersonal dynamics that are activated during the novitiate. Under her guidance, the Formators were led to understand the importance of being people who, in contact with their own lives, help the novices to assume the awareness of having to implement a personal journey.

Every speaker thus ‘enlightened’ some important formative aspect. The wise words of Father Amedeo Cencini, Canossian, psychologist and formator, made the present role of the Formator perceived: “Today formation will consist in helping the novice in her desire to grow, but without putting herself in the place of the young woman. As an adult woman, and as an adult in the faith, the novice must read the whole mosaic of the charism, discovering what she wants to be, what attracts her, what she desires and chooses to be true, beautiful, and good, renouncing everything that does not reflect these values.”

With Sister Piera Ruffinatto, Dean of the Auxilium, they sought to find the answers to the challenges on “how to give quality to our presence in the novitiate community and how to express our own educative identity” in this place. There emerged the importance of allowing the presence of young women in formation to challenge themselves as a Community and to welcome them with hope and optimism, seeing in them the future of the Institute, without giving in to the temptation of numbers and efficiency.

A precious time was that of the Good Nights, including those of Mother Emeritus Sister Yvonne Reungoat, the General Councilors, and listening to Mother who, sharing her life and the commitments of the Sector and of service, confirmed the Formators in the certainty of a synodal journey traveled together with the whole Church.

From 23 to 25 February, the Conference changed location, for a quick return to the places of origin: Turin, Nizza, and Mornese. In Nizza, they were able to participate in al Conference on Mother Catherina Daghero, on the occasion of the centenary of her death, breathing the Charism ‘with full lungs’, with the desire to be able to actualize upon returning to their novitiates, the message of life and the service of authority of Mother Daghero.

During the pilgrimage, Sister Carla Castellino, Animator of the Generalate, presented the theme of the personal encounter and, thanks to the presentation of Sister Linda Pocher, who delineated the Mother of God as a ‘pilgrim who walks with us’, the Formators could more consciously walk with Mary.

One of the Formators, Sister Luisa Menozzi, recalls the days lived in the places of her origins with great gratitude. “The days of Mornese, Nizza, and Turin allowed us to gather before our Saints, the feelings and thoughts, contents and experiences lived together in this time of formation. In stopping at the altar of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, or under the image of the Help of Christians, we could bring and entrust names and stories, expectations and hopes.”

The voices of the participants in the Conference testify that the time of grace lived, dedicated to listening and reflection, will certainly be generative of good fruits, as expressed by Sister Adline Clergé of Haiti. “This Conference has been for me a time of grace, a time of vocational renewal. At the end of this experience, I feel inhabited by this great desire to cultivate more the same sentiments of Christ Jesus, to become more human and more Christian in the daily routine of my life and in the personalized accompaniment of every novice.”

Sister Maria Angelita Gomez from East Timor, said: “For me it was a very rich experience. Returning to Turin, Mornese, and Nizza with the eyes of a Novice Formator, meant for me a renewal in our charism, a new opportunity to draw the Salesian spirit directly from the sources not only for myself, but also to transmit to the young novices the beauty and enthusiasm, the joy that flow from it.”

From the experience of the Conference, the participants understood the importance of the accompaniment that transcends every personal plan and is inscribed in a call of love in the logic of “I entrust them to you” and of “da mihi animas cetera tolle”. Words that, in silence and prayer in the places of the Holy Founders, resounded in the hearts of the Formators with greater intensity, anxiously whispering in them thoughts about the mission among the young formandees.

Photos: Flickr FMA


  1. Tante grazie per la formazione di qualità per le maestre delle novizie al benefice delle novizie. Che il Signore benedica la madre e il suo consiglio.


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