Rome (Italy). On 31 January 2023, in all the Salesian realities of the world, the Solemnity of Saint John Bosco is celebrated, Father and Teacher of youth, who made the “Da mihi animas cetera tolle” the program of his life and left it to his sons and to his daughters as a precious testament and spiritual patrimony.

In the presentation to the “Documents of the 26th General Chapter of the Society of St. Francis di Sales” Fr Pascual Chavez, Rector Major emeritus, affirms:

“The motto ‘Da mihi animas, cetera tolle’ can be fully understood knowing the life and work of our beloved Father and Founder Don Bosco. It is in fact his personal life plan, which is expressed as a personal prayer. It must be interpreted in the light of apostolic dedication, pastoral creativity, tireless work; in a word, of Don Bosco’s apostolic mysticism, but also of the renunciations faced, of the numerous difficulties overcome, of the commitments supported by Don Bosco, of his asceticism”.

And addressing the Salesians participating in the 26th GC, received in audience on 31 March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said to them:

“Don Bosco is a shining example of a life marked by apostolic passion, lived at the service of the Church within the Congregation and the Salesian Family. At the school of St. Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to adopt the motto ‘Da mihi animas, cetera tolle’ as a synthesis of a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. The horizon in which this model is placed is that of the absolute primacy of God’s love, a love that reaches the point of shaping ardent personalities, eager to contribute to Christ’s mission to light up the whole earth with the fire of His love (cf. Lk 1:49).

Alongside the ardor of God’s love, the other characteristic of the Salesian model is the awareness of the inestimable value of ‘souls’. (…) ‘Saving souls’ was therefore Don Bosco’s only reason for being. Blessed Michael Rua, his first successor, summed up the whole life of your beloved Father and Founder in this way: ‘He did not take a step, he did not utter a word, he did not set his hand to any undertaking which did not have as its aim the salvation of youth … He really had only souls at heart’”.

Blessed Sr. Maria Troncatti (16 February 1883 – 25 August 1969), Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, missionary whose 140th of birth is celebrated this year, bears witness to the realization of this motto with her life.

In 1922, on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute, Mother Caterina Daghero sent her to the Amazon forest of Ecuador for the evangelization of the Shuar. First in Chunqui, then in Macas, Sr. Maria lived the mission in multiple activities: from assistance to the sick to the creation of small clinics-pharmacies, to emergency relief, even with surgery.

She shows courage and charity ready to do anything for the “salvation of souls” that is, to ensure dignity and full life for the weakest. Sr. Maria spent her whole life in the Selva, except for four years spent in Guayaquil as Director of the School, in which her thoughts and heart were directed to the mission. In an article written for the magazine “Missionary Youth”, dated 15 November 1930, she speaks of catechetical commitment:

“For a long time, the Kivaris have been begging us to get in better contact with them, by going to visit them in their kivarias to teach catechism. (…) For 15 weeks now we have been going, once a week, to the kivari of the two closest kivarias, to bring the light of eternal truth into that darkness and to relieve those poor brutish souls, also giving their bodies the help that is possible and which is more urgent. And we find a much greater correspondence than we could have hoped for. They themselves come to pick us up in the residence to accompany us through the difficult paths, and to help us cross the famous Upano river, which is done partly by canoe and partly on the shoulders of the kivari themselves, who feel glorious with the sweet weight!”.

The strength of faith nourished and sustained her missionary ardor, as affirmed by numerous witnesses in the Positio super virtutibus:

Every morning from 4 to 5, Sr. Troncatti was in adoration in front of the tabernacle. Thus began the day. Then, on Saturday, she participated in the ‘dawn rosary’ with the pious faithful and, at the established time, was in church together with the community for meditation and Holy Mass. Throughout the day she not only made her work an unceasing prayer, but she prayed almost continuously. Proof of this is many testimonies from people of the most diverse categories, who saw in her attitude the transparency of a serene, convinced, industrious faith. [Says] Mr. Marco Beltrame, Salesian lay brother, “She took advantage of every free moment to run to church. When a personal problem or need was brought to her attention, she would tell me, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to talk to Jesus and I’ll tell Him your needs…; rest assured that He will help you'”.

Sr. Maria Troncatti’s faith is the same faith as Don Bosco’s, the same which, through them, all the members of the Salesian Family are called to renew and bear witness to with assiduous industriousness, for the joy and salvation of many young people.



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