Rome (Italy). During missionary October 2022, the Missions Sector of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians proposes some missionary experiences and realities. Sr. Alice Razanatoany, the first missionary sister from Madagascar, describes the arrival of the missionaries and the expansion of the FMA Institute on the Indian Ocean Island, in particular of her community, St. Mary Mazzarello of Manazary.
“The first five FMA arrived in Madagascar on 15 August 1985, in response to the request of Cardinal Armand Gaëtan Razafindratandra, at that time Bishop of the Diocese of Mahajanga, and subsequently, the first Cardinal of the great island. Three sisters; Sr. Caterina Gionco, Sr. Germana Boschetti, Sr. Antonia Casimiri were Italian and belonged to the then Venetian Mary Queen Province of Conegliano. One was from Croatia, Sr. Marica Jelic, and one from Slovenia, Sr. Marijeta Zanjcovič.
In this Jubilee Year of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute, Mary Source of Life (MDG) Province of Madagascar, which celebrates its 37th anniversary, has 72 FMA, 60 autochthonous and twelve missionaries of Italian, Colombian, Korean, Congolese, Slovenian, Polish, and Argentine origin.
As daughters of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, the sisters are committed to evangelization and education. In every community there are schools and the oratory, with catechesis. In the last six years, I have lived in the Community of Manazary, in the Diocese of Miarinarivo, entrusted to the Salesians of Don Bosco, with twelve Catholic churches, in which three SDB priests exercise the ministry, supported by two diocesan priests. The Sisters of the Community participate in the life of the Diocese through the accompaniment of the girl scouts “fanilon’i Madagascar”, animate the formation of catechists, the groups of young people who are preparing to receive the sacraments, parish associations, the vocational group, and the formation of parents “école des parents”.
The presence of the FMA brought about a change for Manazary, not only with regard to spiritual care and parish animation, but they also made sure that all the houses in the village were equipped with water and light. The FMA Community is also the point of reference for any need of the people, for example to bring the sick to hospital for a surgical operation.
The Mary Domenica Mazzarello Center in Manazary includes different School levels: infancy, primary, 1st year high school, vocational training, literacy courses, as well as canteen, oratory, sports fields, Health Center (dispensary), and Agricultural school. The latter is mainly focused on breeding, although we also try to guarantee the formation offer, especially for young people in the area with very little schooling.
This School teaches modern farming and breeding methods, which will allow a greater harvest and teach young people who do not have important areas of land to cultivate. The first objective is to guarantee the subsistence of the Community and provide meals from Monday to Friday with a healthier and more varied diet to the approximately 240 poor children or those who live far from school by giving rice and, on alternate days, meat, eggs, lake fish, and legumes. The Community helps parents by organizing training in agriculture and livestock to be able to produce more and increase their income.
The Community is made up of five FMA, two Italian volunteers, and more than forty lay collaborators who together animate the whole work. Two FMA missionaries, Sr. Saveria Azzolina who died in 2017, and Sr. Krystina Sozynska who died in 2021, lived for many years in Manazary and left a strong memory and so much good. Their stories, together with those of the first missionaries, teach that the Kingdom of God is born in the secret of soil that embraces the seed, encloses it, and guards it in its generative strength, so that it can acquire vigor in the dark, have strength in silence.
The seed must be thrown into the soil and then left to do everything by itself. If the seed is good and has been sown, all you need is patience and waiting, trust and hope, a glance of faith and passion. From the good soil, new life will spontaneously arise and explode from the seed. The stem, the ear, and the grain are not under our control”.
With Sr. Alice, the first FMA missionary originally from Madagascar, and with many other Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of this land who will leave for the roads of the world, the first fruits of sowing are beginning to be seen.