Carmen de Patagones (Argentina) January 20, 2020 marks the arrival of the first Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Patagones, in Patagonia. The arrival of the first sisters in Patagonia is a significant event at the beginning of the foundation of the Institute which is living the triennial of preparation for its 150th anniversary (1872-2022), since this began its missionary expansion.
Patagonia is the land dreamed of by Don Bosco. In fact around 1872, he had a dream from which he decided to start the missionary apostolate in Patagonia (MB 10, 54-55). On November 11, 1875, with the ‘First Missionary Expedition’ led by the young John Cagliero, Don Bosco sent his first missionaries who had to stop in Buenos Aires. Only in 1879, after obtaining permission from the Argentine government, were they able to reach Patagonia, at the insistence of Don Bosco who had written to Cagliero many times: “Do not stay in Buenos Aires. Patagonia! Patagonia!”
As the chronicle of the House of Carmen de Patagones narrates, the journey from Montevideo of the first young FMA sent by Mother Mazzarello – Sister Angela Vallese, Sister Giovanna Borgna, Sister Angela Cassulo, and Sister Caterina Fina – to reach the foundation house, begins on 3 January 1880.
On January 14 in Buenos Aires, Sister Angela Vallese, who would be the animator of the new house, made perpetual vows in the hands of Fr. Francesco Bodrato, in the presence of the Director of the house in Buenos Aires, Fr. Giacomo Costamagna, and the entire community.
On January 20, “Finally, after much sighing, we reached Patagones. We found a beautiful house, the exact opposite of what they had told us, because we thought that instead of a house we would find a hut with a thatched roof and bad food. (…) By the grace of God we have found everything necessary for the chapel.”
In a letter to the Educating Communities, the Provincial of the Argentine Province of St. Francis Xavier of Bahía Blanca (ABB), Sister Marta Liliana Riccioli expressed gratitude for this event, “mystery of life and grace”, and explained some initiatives:
“On the 20th of each month we will send material of different kinds that will help us to renew our missionary ardor and the dream of apostolic passion in order to be ‘fruitful and life-generating communities’ by doing ‘whatever Jesus tells us’ as Angela Vallese and the other sisters did.”
“In this first message, we share the arrival of the first FMA to Carmen de Patagones, narrated in the chronicle of the house. Listening to Pope Francis’ wish: ‘do not forget Patagonia’, we want to re-signify our presence in this beloved land and invite you to join in prayer and thanksgiving and – why not? – to come and serve Jesus here, in the many young people and simple people.
We wish to reflect deeply, remember, bring into prayer the courage of these first sisters who arrived in Patagonia, in particular in our Carmen de Patagones House, with the hope that we can recreate that missionary ardor in our times, in the mission to which everyone is called.”
On January 20, 2020, Mother General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, received a message from the FMA Argentine Province ABB:
The official celebration of the 140th will be on March 13, 2020, recalling the same day in 1880 on which the first thirteen children began their lessons at St. Mary of the Indies School, today called Mary Help of Christians School of Carmen de Patagones.