Nizza Monferrato (Italy). 26 February 2024 marks the centenary of the birth into heaven of Mother Catherine Daghero (1924-2024), Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, first successor of Mother Mazzarello, who with creative audacity and rooted firmly in the Charism launched the FMA Institute into full flowering, to provide answers to the many needs of the century that was closing and the new one that was opening.

On 24 February in the monthly memory of Mary Help of Christians, protectress and example of a life given, the Institute of Our Lady of Graces of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Mary Help of Christians Province (IPI), organized the Conference Mother Catherine Daghero: from Nizza to the world with foresight of perspectives”.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Acqui, Monsignor Luigi Testore; the Vicar General, Sister Maria del Rosario García Ribas; and the Councilor for Formation of the FMA Institute, Sister Nilza Fatima de Moraes; civil authorities, Provincials of Europe, Novice Formators, Sisters, lay people, Past Pupils, and Salesian Cooperators filled the “Mother House” in a festive atmosphere. The great-great-grandniece and great-great grandnephew of Mother Daghero were also present: Sandra and Roberto Costantino.

The cordial encounter in the Salesian family spirit was combined with the rigor of research and the passion for in-depth analysis that the numerous participants appreciated in the historical exhibit. It was set up with art and competence by Sister Angela Marzorati, responsible for the Office of Photographic and Audio-Visual Documentation of the FMA General Archive – Photographic Sector. There were the passionate interventions by the Animator and General Secretary emerita, Sister Piera Cavaglià; by Sister Maria Concetta Ventura, Sister Grazia Loparco, and Sister Paola Cuccioli. In addition, there was the new biography edited by Angela Bertero, “The courage to dream the future”, and the musical homage of St. Bernardo choir of Novara, directed by Maria Dina Bertotti, which concluded the day. The young students of the Ciofs-FP of Casale Monferrato and Alessandria also gave their contribution by preparing and serving with art and enthusiasm the buffet for the participants.

Everyone contributed to making this figure known a little better and a little more, leaving the participants with the desire to read her numerous letters and, even more, to invoke her help. Mother Catherine, so easy to be moved and to act to satisfy every request, is a guide in living like her in her compassion and sharing, to “Be at the forefront of charity.”

“We are festive today because we celebrate a centenary of a fruitful life: the life and mission of Mother Catherine Daghero who lived here, in this house for about 50 years, leaving traces of light!”. These are the opening words of the conference by Sister Piera Cavaglià, who continued with some historical brushstrokes:

“Her story is incredible:

  • Motherless at the age of 12, she was a mother to many daughters near and far all her life. Everyone said that she wore that name well!
  • A woman with a non-academic culture promoted education and culture for women throughout the Institute by promoting the opening of schools, youth centers, university hostels, oratories, boarding schools for workers, so that the girls and young people would be aware of their social responsibility.
  • Elected Mother General at the age of 25, she led the Institute for 43 years, demonstrating wisdom and creative foresight that left many people amazed.
  • Born and always lived in provincial towns, with fairly narrow borders (Cumiana, Mornese, Nizza, St. Cyr), she cultivated within herself a bold missionary spirit and encouraged her daughters and sisters to travel to four continents to bring to all the joy of the Gospel and the Salesian charism.”

In her greeting, the Vicar General recalled, “It was in this House that Mother Catherine died one hundred years ago on 26 February. The previous day, the Chronicle notes these words of hers, ‘We thank the Lord… let us always do God’s will well’.

Mother Catherine Daghero was a courageous, enterprising, and passionate Daughter of Mary Help of Christians because she was truly rooted in the Gospel and in the spirit of the Founder, Saint John Bosco. We can, in this centenary year, delve deeper into her message and collect her legacy, a missionary ardor that had no boundaries or other limits than ‘Da mihi animas cetera tolle’.”

In her salutations at the end of the Conference, Sister Piera Ruffinatto, Dean of the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium” and fellow citizen of Mother Daghero, recalled her hometown, also sharing the memories of her great-great-grandniece Sandra:

“Catherine Daghero left Cumiana while still young, but with a clear plan in mind, that of responding to God’s call, even if she didn’t yet fully know in what form. Elected Superior General of the FMA Institute at just 25 years of age, she was a woman of government (the longest government in the history of the Institute). As a Salesian educator, she was full of courage and apostolic ardor; and as Superior General she possessed a far-sighted outlook which ranged over vast horizons so much so as to be able to give extraordinary impetus to the nascent Institute, almost making it what it is today: a global Institute.”

In Sister Piera Ruffinatto’s educative conclusion, the hope for a year of studies and fruitful insights to enrich the narrative and make known a story that “tastes of the future”:

“Mother Catherine was a great educator and formator, sowing life and making it germinate and bear fruit in the FMA Institute, outside it, and also in her town, Cumiana. The most beautiful character of the educational mission is that it is by its nature, generative. This is the noblest profile of the one who educates and who carries out her task, above all, by contagion. (…)

With the studies and insights of this centenary year, I am certain that the seed thrown into the pond will produce increasingly larger concentric waves to make known a humble and great history that still today has a taste of the future!”.


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