Rome (Italy). Mother Rosetta Marchese (1922 – 1984), whose centenary of birth was celebrated on 20 October 2022, as the sixth successor of Mother Mazzarello she was particularly attentive to the formation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
In her childhood and adolescence, “Rosellina”, as she was called, opens up to the love of God through the contemplation of God’s beauty along the paths of the Aosta Valley Alps and at the oratory of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. In the family, she demonstrates a strong temperament. In her biography (Maria Collino, “Living Stone of a holy priesthood”) we read: “Other times Rosellina was the comandona (Piedmontese dialect expression for ‘boss’) with her sisters. Woe if they didn’t obey her! She would shower them with slaps and then she denounced herself to papa. She didn’t apologize to the two poor girls, but to him and accepted the correction from him. Rosellina’s defects had their weight, but on the other side of her scale there was all of her inner work that tended to make them become a formative experience.” (p.38).
Sensitivity for formation matured in her in Catholic Action, to which she adhered while continuing to attend the oratory. As an FMA, she was a student at the Faculty of Letters of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Castelnuovo Fogliani. She was appointed coordinator of the group of FMA who reside at the University. Her biography reads, “Sr. Rosetta was immediately seen to have a vivid clarity of intent to promote the internal cohesion of the community and its openness to the environment. Her FMA companions felt she was a committed sister; the other sisters appreciated her cordiality.”
Openness to other Religious Institutes is also a trait found in Mother Rosetta as Visiting Councilor and then as Mother General. Those who knew, her remember how much she encouraged participation in inter-congregational meetings. As Mother General, she used to welcome the religious of other Institutes who came to meet her into her office not in the parlor, just as she does with the FMA.
In the Circulars of her brief mandate, she calls for spiritual depth nourished by charismatic sources, to “filter in the light of God all the solicitations that come to us from outside and all the circumstances that weave our daily life” (Circular 661, 24 September 1983). It can be said that this concern repeatedly expressed in her magisterium, constitutes her personal life commitment.
She courageously declares, “My fear is precisely this: that we remain on the surface, that we pass from richness to richness without doing the necessary deepening and vital integration of it. This fear, however, is also full of hope. In fact, I am sure that we are all engaged in that journey of conversion to which the extraordinary grace of the Holy Year that we are celebrating calls us in a particular way. (…) This conversion naturally affects the single person, but it cannot be complete and lasting if the members of the community do not support each other, in our characteristic family spirit.”
She continues, “The family spirit permeates all the ways of living as FMA. Where there is no family spirit there is no Preventive System ‘as an experience of communion lived between us and the young people in an atmosphere of spontaneity, friendship, and joy’.”
Mother Rosetta lingers on the theme, referring to the Founders: “Contemplating Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, whom the Lord, by calling us to live in the Institute, gave us as Father and as Mother, models to inspire us to live in communion with Him, Trinity of ineffable communion, and between us, we look at our reality. An authoritarian, centralizing, maternalistic, permissive government deforms the family spirit according to the heart of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. It is equally distorted by the disesteem of authority, the misunderstanding of the role of the superior as animator of the community. Self-sufficiency, individualism, the assumption of personal initiatives to the detriment of unity and the convergence of interventions in the apostolic journey deform it. Envy, jealousy, and destructive criticism deform it.
All of this is possible with ‘a leap of faith’. “I can do all things in him who comforts me” (Phil. 4:13). We make the Pauline affirmation our own and believe that the Heavenly Father and Mary Help of Christians will never let us lack the help to build the true family in our communities. An orderly family, where we love each other from the heart, where we live well and happily together, where the Eucharist is the bond of unity, where we support each other, and the joys and sorrows of one are the joys and sorrows of the other. Family in which the person is worth more than any beautiful project and yet where people all feel involved according to their role and their strengths so that the community plan becomes a reality.”
While the Church proposes the deepening of synodality, Mother Rosetta’s message seems more significant and timely than ever.
Dear mother Rosetta,
I was a newly professed FMA when you became the mother of all FMA all over the FMA world. Though I didn’t have the chance to meet you personally, I was impressed of your happy holy countenance. Thank you for your encouraging words
Grazie, Madre Rosetta per quello che sei stata e per quello che continui ad essere dal Paradiso, dove vivi in pienezza quell’unione che hai iniziato a vivere quaggiù. Aiutaci a fare delle nostre comunità il luogo della comunione vera e fraterna, nell’accoglienza e nel perdono reciproco delle inevitabili fragilità. Grazie
Io me la ricordo bene …. Ero piccola, ma ho avuto modo d’incontrarla tante volte abitando lì in zona e frequentando l’istituto …. Bei tempi e gran bella persona.