Rome (Italy). The date of 17 February 1872 commemorates an important circumstance in the journey towards the Foundation of the FMA Institute, whose 150th anniversary is celebrated on 5 August 2022. Sr. Piera Cavaglià, Secretary General emeritus, draws the story from a handwritten source by Fr. Domenic Pestarino.

That year (1872) the annual meeting of Salesian Rectors could not be held on the feast of St. Francis de Sales in Turin, because Don Bosco was still sick in Varazze, in the province of Savona, Liguria. He returned to Valdocco on 15 February and on the 17th, he summoned all the Rectors of the Salesian communities.

Among these was also the Director of the House of Mornese (AL). Then, for the first time, Fr. Domenic Pestarino presented Don Bosco, the Rectors, and all the confreres of the Valdocco house with a ‘memorandum’ on the future Institute of the FMA.

Fr. Pestarino, with his characteristic meticulous precision, notes the meeting with Don Bosco that he had in June 1871. Don Bosco “in private conference” had expressed his determination to found a religious institute for women “for the Christian education of girls of the poorer classes and declared that Mornese would be the place he knew to be best suited for this Institute due to the healthiness of the air and the religious spirit that reigns there.” Furthermore, he saw with hope the group of the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, from which it was possible to choose those who were willing to start the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.

In that report, Fr. Pestarino specified the following:

“It should be noted that two of these Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, Mazzarello Mary of Joseph and Petronilla, with the consent of Fr. Pestarino and without foreseeing anything of the idea of Don Bosco, had begun to live in common for the past four or five years. Little by little, they were joined by Teresa Pampuro, Catterina Mazzarello, Felicina Mazzarello, Giovannina Ferrettino, and the young girls Rosina Mazzarello (Baroni), Maria Grosso, Corinna Arrigotti.”

These young Mornese women and some girls, welcomed into the Community as boarders, will all become Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.

Fr. Pestarino added that Don Bosco concluded the meeting with these words: “I will come to Mornese and together we will sign the great promise to live and die working for the Lord under the beautiful name of Mary Help of Christians” (Cronistoria I 281).

That day, Fr. Pestarino returned to Mornese from Turin with a gift for the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception. He bought a beautiful image of Mary Help of Christians for them. Mother Petronilla remembered it well. She measured about one meter in height, was beautiful, and represented Our Lady with the Child Jesus. Without a lot of publicity given the climate of tension created at that time with the people of Mornese, the image was placed in the Chapel of the School under construction and became for everyone a sign of joy and of trust (Cf. Cronistoria I 280-281). Don Costamagna, before the first expedition of the FMA in America (November 14, 1877), entrusted it to the missionaries in memory of Mornese.  Today it is kept in the “Hall of Memory” of the House of Mary Help of Christians of Almagro, Buenos Aires, of the Argentine Province of St. Francis de Sales (ABA).

Mary Help of Christians was already there, in the first future House of the Institute, waiting for her daughters. She would pave the way and smooth out any difficulties!


  1. Grazie per le informazioni cosi possiamo aggiornarci e prepararci bene per la celebrazione del 150° dell’Istituto.

  2. Grazie infinite per la ricchezza donata sempre ma soprattutto in questa fase del 150° del nostro stupendo Istituto. Maria SS. Ausiliatrice, Don Bosco, Madre Mazzarello vi sostenga sempre e vi dia la forza di continuare a farci dono di tante ricchezze.


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