Castelgandolfo (Rome). On 30 April and 1 May 2024, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians from 1 to 10 years of profession of the Roman Province of St. John Bosco (IRO) experienced the penultimate formation meeting in Castelgandolfo. Present for the two days were the Vicar General of the FMA Institute, Sister María del Rosario Garcìa Ribas; the IRO Provincial, Sister Gabriella Garofoli; and the Provincial Vicar, Sister Antonella Terravecchia.

The splendid setting that welcomed them was that of the Casa Santa Rosa, where the welcome, with attention to every detail, allowed them to experience a time of formation, but also of refreshment, giving them the opportunity to recharge in view of the conclusion of the educational-pastoral year.

The meeting was part of the 2023/2024 formation itinerary in which the affective dimension of the identity of the Daughter of Mary Help of Christians was explored, dealing with the theme of affectivity and sexuality in Consecrated Life, from the biblical/theological, anthropological, and psychological points of view.

The conference held from 1 to 3 March at the Salesian Pontifical University, entitled “Youth and sexuality”, fit perfectly into the theme, allowing the young FMA to open significant glimpses into this reality and the way in which in this time of fluidity, this dimension is experienced, starting from the young people with whom they walk every day.

In this event, however, we wanted to underline the charismatic aspect of this dimension. Specifically, how in our Charism, we are called to live our own affectivity. Therefore, the meeting could only concern loving- kindness as a characteristic of the Salesian relational style.

Being on the threshold of the month of May, and recognizing that there is no better way to learn loving kindness than from She who is the model of every motherhood, before reaching Castelgandolfo a stop was made to visit the Basilica of St. Clement in Velletri, where the image of the Our Lady of Grace is kept. There the group was welcomed by Fr. Claudio Sinibaldi, who with great enthusiasm and an abundance of details, made them participate in the history of the Basilica and in particular that of the icon of the Our Lady of Grace dating back to the 8th century. Since ‘600, it has been the recipient of great devotion from the entire population that culminates in the first week of May, with a large procession for which preparations are already underway.  The FMA entrusted to Her their journey, their communities, and all the young people they accompany in the mission.

After this ‘superlative’ start, they had the joy of being able to have with them the Vicar General, Sister María del Rosario Garcìa Ribas, who enriched the meeting with her valuable contribution on the theme of loving-kindness in the FMA Constitutions, and also with the gift of her sisterly presence and closeness, remaining with us for both days.

To seal the experience, on the morning of 1 May, Fr. Enrico Lupano, Salesian of Don Bosco, with his preparation and experience of apostolic Salesian life, explored the theme of loving-kindness in the mission.

This experience allowed the young women to remember, that is, bring again to their hearts that kindness, before being an attitude to have towards others, is a response to God’s love by which one feels deeply loved. They also rediscovered that living loving-kindness is nothing other than taking care of their own humanity, making themselves increasingly capable of mature and free relationships, generative of new life.

Some impressions of the participants:

“For me, it was significant to look at loving-kindness as at the heart of the preventive system and of our charism and our vocation, that is, to rediscover and assume how loving-kindness is actually the distinctive character of the Salesian vocation, both of the vow of chastity and, in particular, of the style of our relationships. This allows us to be able to look at our lives in the light of the criterion of loving-kindness. It was beautiful to be able to do it in the light of the charism, through the Constitutions and the experience of our Founder.”

“This meeting stimulated me to look at the future with different eyes, without stopping at the past, at the things that aren’t right, at those that we wish were there and aren’t there, but, starting from the reality of our today. I believe that the Lord calls us to renew our way of looking to the future. I was also particularly struck by the methodology of the ‘spiritual conversation’ taught to us by Sister Chary (Sister María del Rosario) who, by marking the stages, somehow gave me confirmation that during the sharing, the Lord speaks in the words of the other and, therefore, when something holds us back, we are called to give ourselves as gifts for the others, whom God wants to reach.”

“I believe that this last one was a particularly interesting meeting, because Sister Chary and Fr. Enrico did not come just as ‘experts’ with the intention of teaching us something. Rather, they involved themselves in a process that left some interesting tools for the future, such as the method of ‘spiritual conversation’. Fr. Enrico also provoked us by opening questions about the future. I really appreciated their openness and desire to enter into a path of reflection and growth that goes beyond the two days spent together.”

“It was significant for me to be able to reflect on the corporal dimension of our being Brides of Christ, that is, that our choice is not only of a spiritual nature, but that there is a whole human being to take care of that we often neglect. I believe it is important to remember that the Lord loves me not for what I do, but for who I am. And I must take care of this being of mine. I was also particularly struck by a personal sharing from Sister Chari who, as Vicar General, often finds herself traveling and sharing with people she doesn’t know, yet on every occasion she recognizes the faces of the Sister, even from the other part of the world, the face of true sisters”.



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