Rome (Italy). November 15, 2023 marks the liturgical memorial of Blessed Maddalena Caterina Morano (1847-1908), FMA whose story is linked to Piedmont, where she lived until 1881, and to Sicily, where she was the architect of the development of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
After almost 27 years in Sicily, Sister Maddalena leaves 19 homes, 12 oratories, 6 schools, 5 kindergartens, 4 boarding schools, 3 religious schools, 142 Sisters, 20 Novices, and 9 Postulants. When she arrived there, she found 2 houses, 7 Sisters, 2 Novices. These are surprising numbers which, when contextualized in the life program of the Blessed, take on a precise meaning.
Among her notes, written at the end of the Spiritual Exercises that preceded her first profession, we read: “1. Be all of God out of love… and of your neighbor out of charity. 2. The Sacred Heart of Jesus wants you to live stripped of everything that is not God, because He wants to be your only friend, your support, your pleasure. 3. Banish every reflection of self-love, every regard for yourself: this forms an obstacle to the operations of grace in your soul. 4. Keep your soul at peace without worrying about your defects, which serve according to God’s plans to maintain within you the love for your abjection… You climb the high mountain of perfection with constant mortification; you don’t need give yourself to particular penances; be careful to willingly suffer the mortifications that religious life necessarily brings with it and you will not only atone for your sins, but you will reach perfection. Even the tall houses are made of small stones superimposed on each other” (Sister Maddalena Morano, memoirs collected by the Priest Domenico Garneri, 1923).
Beyond the nineteenth-century language, we find in these intentions the secret of Mother Morano’s apostolic fruitfulness, complete dedication to God and others and gratuitousness. These traits characterized Maddalena’s entire life. She was only 14 years old when the provost of Buttigliera d’Asti entrusted her with the kindergarten. The biographer notes, “Maddalena dedicated herself entirely to the good of those souls. Such was the affection of the girls for their teacher that, seeing her pass along the street, they were immediately around her and accompanied her on her walks, eager to always be with her.”
Although she wanted to consecrate herself to God, she waited until she had secured a small house for her widowed mother.
Among a thousand tasks, especially when the works became more structured and demanding, the sick always formed the concern of her big heart. To a nurse she said, “I recommend you, treat the sick well, serve them with care, always feel sorry for them, never make them suffer, appearing bored by their complaints, never judge them to be demanding.”
Another testimony, reported in the Summarium historicum addictionale, notes that, “When she learned of the illness of some Sister, she forgot her other occupations as if she had nothing to do and dedicated herself entirely to finding the means to restore her health.” She did not miss the opportunity to offer accompaniment to the Sisters and girls and so she did not miss out on personally writing response letters.
Attentive to everything and everyone, she took care of the pedagogical formation of the Sisters. When she was Animator at Trecastagni, between 1881 and 1885, “almost every week Sister Morano used to gather the Sisters in the small sacristy of the Conservatory for pedagogical and religious conferences. It was important to her that the Sisters always would progress in the difficult art of education and even more so, in their religious perfection. … she was frank in pointing out the defects of character and method into which her Sisters used to fall, practical in indicating the most appropriate [suitable] means to correct oneself and profiting.”
We often wonder why such carefully organized initiatives and activities leave no trace in people’s lives. Maddalena Morano was able to choose the path of integrality in the gift of self, but also of the integral synthesis between faith and life. She was a faithful interpreter of the spirit of Don Bosco; she “understood that joy is not only an asset, but also a strength in life.” The biographer continues, “she appeared to be one of those privileged souls who in the world have the gift of ‘finding joy everywhere and leaving it to others when they go’. Therefore, her activity was a continuous radiation of holy joy.”
Accompanying, educating by looking at the totality of the person starting from total gratuitousness and dedication; freeing oneself progressively but carefully from any ulterior motive… This is what the saints teach; this can still make education the place of realization of peace today.