Rome (Italy). From 14 to 18 November 2022, in the Generalate (RCG) in Rome, the meeting of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians missionaries ad gentes in Europe was held, animated by Sr. Ruth del Pilar Mora, General Councilor, and by the collaborators of the Missions Sector of the FMA Institute.
“Being missionaries ad gentes in a changing Europe” was the theme developed in the meeting, which was attended by twelve missionaries from eight European Provinces, convened by the General Councilor through the Provincials, with the intention of “refreshing missionary passion, reflect on the meaning of our presence, of our witness here in Europe on this 150th anniversary of the foundation of our Institute.”
In 1872, 150 years ago, the FMA Institute was born and from Mornese in a very short time, it expanded all over the world. The first missionaries who left Italy reached “those places at the end of the world” and everywhere the vocation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians has blossomed. Thanks to the generous ‘yes’ of many sisters, all continents have been embraced by the Salesian charism.
The seed has been sown and now many FMA, with equal availability, are responding to be missionaries ad gentes in Europe, implementing new strategies to re-evangelize the West. Once a pool of vocations and a source of resources for cooperation, the ‘old continent’ is today a place of social and cultural changes such that even the Christian faith needs to be re-proposed in new forms.
The starting date of the meeting was particularly significant, coinciding with the 145th anniversary of the 1st missionary expedition of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, which took place on 14 November 1877.
In a moment of celebration, the group recalled the last moments before the departure of the first sisters: Sr. Angela Vallese, Sr. Giovanna Borgna, Sr. Angela Cassulo, Sr. Angela Denegri, Sr. Teresa Gedda, Sr. Teresina Mazzarello in the presence of Mother Mazzarello and of Don Bosco, from the port of Sampierdarena, Genoa:
“On the morning of 14 November 1877, Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello are there, at the port of Genoa, to greet, comfort, and dry the tears that they themselves can hardly hold back. The sisters leave with special luggage: a lot of trust in God, joy in proclaiming the love of Jesus, humility in welcoming new customs and new cultures, willingness to live with sacrifices, knowing that good costs so much that, if the situation requires it, the cross and martyrdom, in the belief that when God asks, He asks for everything! (Cron. II, pp. 276 – 291)”.
Sr. Ruth began this way, “We begin this encounter as a sign of sweet Providence, precisely today, November 14, celebrating the 145th anniversary of the first missionary expedition of the FMA. Going beyond known borders to meet new peoples and cultures was characteristic of the style of the first communities, eager to bring the most surprising and shocking proclamation to the world, the tenderness of God-Love. Since then, a page of history began which, even today, continues to be written by many FMA in 98 countries of the world. The only goal of the expedition was to live boldly and creatively, in word and deed, the mottos ‘Da mihi animas cetera tolle’ and ‘I entrust them to you.’
Today we find ourselves a small group of sisters from 8 of our provinces present in Europe, fruit of the action of the Spirit in the life of many FMA, to deeply feel the Lord’s call to make our life a mission and to renew our commitment to make the presence of the Kingdom visible, accessible through our life and the life of our communities, always open to building a ‘we’ in which everyone can experience the Lord Jesus, the reason and meaning of our existence.”
Over the course of the days, the group had the opportunity to meet directly and interact with some representatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PP.OO.MM.) and of the Migrantes and Missio Foundations, pastoral care bodies of the CEI, which also offer a glimpse of the migratory phenomenon, with statistical data and with a pastoral approach oriented towards a changing Europe, with the aim of raising awareness and soliciting their inclusion in local ecclesial networks.
The intervention of Sr. Grazia Loparco, Professor of Church History at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium”; the Good Nights of the General Councilors and of the Mother General emeritus, Sr. Yvonne Reungouat; the lunch shared with the sisters of the Spirituality Course of Casa Mother Ersilia Canta; with the Superior of Mary Mother of the Church Preprovince (RMC), Sr. María del Carmen Canales, strengthened the spirit of family and simple and spontaneous fraternity, leaving in all the desire to “go forward with a big and generous heart” (cf. L 47:12).
The missionaries of Europe who participated with enthusiasm and joy in this first meeting, expressed the desire to continue the journey together “how, where, and when God wills”. The geographical place is not important to experience the missionary spirit ad gentes, as much as the passion for the Kingdom, feeling ‘in the same boat’ and walking on earth with the sky inside, to look into the distance and expand the horizons of the heart to the world.