Rome (Italy). March 8, 2021, on which International Women’s Day is celebrated, marks the anniversary of the birth of the Servant of God Mother Rosetta Marchese (1922-1984), Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians who, throughout her life, aroused and accompanied processes of change in the environment in which she lived and worked with faith, wisdom, and educational passion.
In Caltagirone in Sicily, as a young Superior, she was 36, she opened the Community of the FMA to the challenges of the time, encouraged them to a more authentic fraternal life, and involved them in a stronger experience of the Church with a diocesan catechetical course, carried out with the students of the Magisterial Institute and under the guidance and encouragement of Bishop Francesco Fasola (Servant of God and spiritual father of Mother Rosetta). To this was added the formation of the laity in the Salesian Family, which at that time was still in an embryonic state, and the first steps of accompanying the nascent Don Bosco Volunteers Institute (VDB) in Sicily.
After only three years, she was called to Rome, where she could vibrate and make vibrate with the singular experience of the Second Vatican Council. From this privileged observatory, she contributed with creativity to let a breath of fresh air, of genuine ecclesial life, enter the Educating Community. She invited some Council Fathers, particularly those from Eastern Europe, to tell the sisters and girls of the school and oratory about the suffered fidelity to the Gospel, lived in contexts crossed by atheism and communism.
At that time, she also organized a pilgrimage to the Vatican, so that the school girls and other young people could participate in a Mass presided over by the Pope. She managed to convene 2,000 young people from the FMA houses in Rome. It is said that she allowed the girls to pose in photographs with the Council Fathers as they left the Council Hall and passed through St. Peter’s Square, in order to make the figures of those Pastors more familiar and close.
With creativity, she invited the school pupils to engage in acts of love and small sacrifices and to put a grain of wheat for each one, as a sign of the commitment offered for the Council. The various grains, transformed into flour, were then used for the Hosts to offer to the Bishops and Cardinals for the Eucharistic Celebration.
With true apostolic and ecclesial passion she promoted, together with the Sisters of the Community, the School for catechists, to form older girls to be evangelizers among the poor children of the peripheral parishes of Rome. Mother Rosetta favored the collaboration of the laity and trusted the girls, believing in their potential for good. The FMA thus reached 30 parishes and almost 4,000 children.
Called then by obedience to Lecco, in Lombardy, she committed herself to the Centenary of the foundation of the Institute (1972), arousing new energies of love for the Charism, for the Founders, for the educational mission, for collaboration in the local Church, in communion with others Religious Congregations.
In 1981, with the heart of a mother, she accompanied the Institute to celebrate the Centenary of the death of Saint Mary D. Mazzarello, encouraging paths of conversion and renewal, springing from the deeper knowledge of the Co-founder and also from the grace of the consignment of the renewed Constitutions to each FMA.
Her own illness and death were transformed into a source of new fidelity and commitment to holiness among the daughters scattered throughout the world.
These are some of the sprouts of new life that Mother Rosetta was able to support, accompany, and make grow. With farsightedness, discernment, and with a gaze full of hope (cf. Circular 1005) she knew how to read the challenges, the unprecedented opportunities of the time and, with the attraction of the gift of herself, still today she arouses new dynamisms of good, seeds of life and holiness.
Providential is the coincidence of the birth into Heaven of Mother Rosetta Marchese with International Women’s Day and with the month dedicated to Saint Joseph, Patron Saint of the Institute, whom Pope Francis, through the Apostolic Letter Patris corde, indicates as an icon of tenderness, caring, listening, obedience, welcoming, courage, and protector in the difficult times of our history. Everything is an evident sign of a true FMA who generates life because she is “Mother”.