Rome (Italy). The hymn “Oh qual sorte!” since 1915 has been sung in Italian by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of all the communities of the world, as a sign of communion and unity of the FMA Institute in the Salesian Charism. However, its origins are not always known. The celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute (1872-2022) is an opportunity to remember the history and meaning of this song, known as “the Hymn of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians”.
The music, with a cheerful marching rhythm in the refrain, lively and expressive in the stanzas, is by Cardinal John Cagliero, one of the first young members of the Society of Saint Francis de Sales, the Congregation founded by Saint John Bosco in 1859, the first Salesian Bishop and Cardinal. With a cheerful and exuberant temperament, Cagliero had outstanding musical gifts, which made him a composer of hymns and pieces for church functions, shows, bands. From 1874 until his death in 1926, he accompanied the FMA Institute with wisdom and genuine Salesian spirituality.
The words of the hymn were written by Sr. Felicina Fauda in 1913 or 1914, on the imminent anniversary of the centenary of the birth of Don Bosco and the centenary of the institution of the feast of Mary Help of Christians (1815-1915). When Sr. Felicina wrote those stanzas, she was Provincial of the Piedmont Province.
Sr. Felicina Fauda, at 22 was already Animator of the Chieri Community, and was one of the first graduates of the Institute. She was a teacher of pedagogy at the Normal School of Nizza Monferrato. At the age of 29, she accompanied as secretary, the Superior General Mother Caterina Daghero on her missionary journey which lasted 20 months (1895-1897) through Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru. The sudden death of Mother Emilia Mosca (October 2, 1900) gave her at the age of 32, the responsibility of being dean of the newly equalized Nizza High School, which she led for over 10 years. Later, she was Provincial of the Piedmont, Sicilian, French, Belgian Provinces, with a brief interval in 1935, which saw her engaged in the first foundation of Haiti.
The solemn text of this hymn reveals the lively sense of belonging to the FMA Institute, which Sr. Felicina Fauda passed on to several generations of sisters.
The song consists of the refrain “O qual sorte!” and 11 stanzas, of which the musical tradition of the Institute has handed down only one: “Siam la schiera …”. In each stanza, the Virgin Mary and Don Bosco are explicitly present. Only in the last one is there also a reference to “Mother Mazzarello, first and pious Superior“, whose Cause of Beatification had just begun four years before.
The refrain sings the joy of being and wanting to be faithful Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The first verse sings the Institute as a living monument raised by Don Bosco to the Help of Christians. The second and third emphasize the “following of Christ” which, as the fourth explains, is realized as a gift of prayer and work for souls: “To save youth“, as the fifth verse specifies.
The sixth recalls the will of Don Bosco, who wanted the FMA for the Church, faithful to every wish of the Pope. Everything can be carried out in fidelity to the Rules and to the magisterium of the Superiors, the seventh verse illustrates. Three stanzas follow, eighth, ninth, and tenth that underline the fields where the mission of the Daughter of Mary Help of Christians takes place: boarding schools, oratories, schools. The Past Pupils are the protagonists of the ninth verse, while in the tenth, the missions and other works are recalled.
The concluding verse is a plea to the heart of God for a faithful “sequela”, committed to expressing oneself in fruitful strength and purity