Rome (Italy). On 24 May 2024, throughout the Salesian world, the Solemnity of Mary Help of Christians is celebrated. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, in the Salesian Family, by the will of Don Bosco, are the “living monument” of his gratitude to the Powerful Help of Christians and of all peoples.

In the passage of the Wedding at Cana, proposed by the liturgy of the Solemnity, the Blessed Virgin becomes a mediator with her Son. Among them, the Servant of God Sister Antonietta Böhm (1907 – 2008), especially in her last years of life, lived the same mission as Mary: to be a mediator for others of God’s blessing and Mary’s powerful help.

It was a mission that she lived with faith, love and humility, as a gift of God. In her letter of 26 July 1993, she states, “Yes, … faith is a gift from God; it is at our disposal. Our Lady works; she intercedes, there is no doubt, the facts prove it.” She is aware that she is only an intermediary with the Blessed Virgin, as she expressed in 1994 to an Argentine Sister, “The graces that are narrated, first of all, are not made by me; they happen through the intercession of Mary Most Holy. They are obtained by the faith and trust that there is, that the person has. We unite with the problem of the person. Of course, I give you my blessing with Our Lady, personally, by telephone or by plane, but it is she who acts, who intervenes, who proceeds.”

In another letter dated 19 January 1994, she linked her role to the evangelizing mission and said, “The good Jesus gives me the opportunity to spread His message. Only yesterday I spoke to the mothers of the kindergarten, to the novices of the Salesians, to the young people who attend the academy; I gave good night to the community of Laura Vicuña.” In a letter of 5 April 1995, she describes how she carries out a special mission, “I spend the day making phone calls, answering letters, and taking care of the people, who are never lacking. I made a program. From 9 to 1, after lunch, I start from 3 to 5, there are exceptions when they come from afar. What a gift from God! … help me to thank Jesus, Our Lady, for giving me this gift in my old age, to bring souls to God, to Our Lady. It is a sacred work.”

The special bond between Sister Antoinette Böhm and Mary Help of Christians is the result of a true Marian journey. In her “Missionary Memoirs” she narrates: “Throughout my life, the presence of Mary Most Holy was very strong, first of all because I had the joy of being born in a Christian home and at the same time in a Marian home. One of the first memories I have as a child are the songs and hymns to Mary, a domestic custom that probably came from my grandparents. The place where I come from is a cold zone. It was customary, at seven in the evening, to gather around the fire, to sing hymns in Latin to the Blessed Virgin.”

In the Oratory of Essen (Germany) and in the first years of formation at the Institute, in the House of Mary Help of Christians in Eschelbach (Germany), which was the community where Sister Antoinette began her religious life, there was a strong Marian atmosphere. We read in the chronicles of the house of the time when she made her Postulancy, that the monthly memory of Mary Help of Christians on the 24th, was always solemnized with some particular initiative.

For Sister Antonietta, the Most Holy Virgin was first of all a Mother, so much so as to call her “Mama”. In the letters to Mother Laura Maraviglia, with which she had a close correspondence between 1990 and 2004, she herself, now over eighty, often uses the expression, “Mama tells you”.

But the Marian devotion of Sister Antonieta, besides being the fruit of an experiential and affective relationship, was well founded from the theological point of view. Much of her personal library consists of devotional texts, Mariology, documents of Vatican II and the Papal Magisterium. In her writings, mostly conferences or good nights, she constantly cites Sacred Scripture, the magisterial documents, the Marian facts of the life of Don Bosco and his teachings about Her. Maintaining a relationship of trust and closeness with her Mother, Sister Antonieta gradually discovered herself as the “beloved daughter of the Virgin”.

On the evening of 5 August 1922, Father Rinaldi, preaching the Holy Hour at the FMA, recalled that “the purpose of Don Bosco in instituting the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians was to erect a living monument that would testify to the world and to the centuries their gratitude to Mary Most Holy.” And he concluded, “Therefore, may the Sisters of Mary Help of Christians seek to copy in themselves as perfectly as possible the virtues of Mary: her immaculate purity, her deep humility, her heroic spirit of sacrifice, and above all, her industrious goodness.”

Sister Antonietta, formed in the Novitiate (1926-1928) under the spiritual direction of Blessed Philip Rinaldi, assimilated this idea very well. From his writings emerges a conviction, the same as that of Mother Mazzarello and all the FMA, up to Mother Chiara Cazzuola, “Children resemble their Mother”. Mary has always been the model and ideal of her consecrated life.

In a letter of 31 May 1997, addressed to Sister Maria Bianchi, she expresses what can be considered the message of the feast of the Help of Christians: “[…] I, in truth, have done nothing but express what we all as FMA, know from the moment we were called and chosen by Our Lady to be her Daughters. What is missing is to practice seriously total abandonment, full of trust, in the hands of Mary, as Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello did. […] You know, dear Sister Mary, that it is very important that all the Provinces, and therefore also yours, return to live the Marian awakening characteristic of the Institute, if we want Our Lady to bless and solve many physical, material, moral, and spiritual problems. Become a propagator of devotion to Our Lady. May your Sisters pray to her full of faith and trust and abandon themselves to her without reserve”.


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