Manaus (Brazil). On 25 May 2023, at the Ruy Araújo Auditorium in Fores, Manaus, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Amazonas, on behalf of the people of the State, paid homage to the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians for the 100th anniversary of its presence in the Amazon with a recognition conferred by the State Representative Wilker de Azevedo Barreto to Sr. Paola Battagliola, Visiting Councilor of the FMA Institute, present in the name of Mother General, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, and to Sr. Carmelita Conceição, Provincial of the Province of Our Lady of Amazonia (BRM).
Wilker de Azevedo Barreto, promoter of the homage, expressed his gratitude to the FMA Institute “for what you have done and will do”, recognizing the courage to go inside the Region, since the Salesian Sisters are still present in Communities where access is difficult. And he underlined that “only the vocation, only the love to open oneself up” makes this presence possible.
The Minister therefore encouraged the Assembly to make the work of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians known, expressing the need to help with public resources, the works they carry forward today, through which they can reach people where the State is unable to make itself present.
In February 1923, the first Salesian Sisters arrived in São Gabriel da Cachoeira – at the request of the Salesians of Don Bosco who had settled there in 1915, taking care of the education of girls, the dispensary, and the city hospital. Subsequently, they spread to various locations in the Alto Rio Negro: Taracuá (1925), Laureate (1930), Barcelos (1934), Pari Cachoeira (1946), Santa Isabel do Rio Negro (1950), Assunção do Içana (1956). In 1930 they also started their missionary work in Manaus, with the Colégio Nossa Senhora Auxiliadora. Currently 10,000 children, adolescents, and young people in the Amazon are accompanied by the FMA present in 21 houses.
The indigenous people of the upper Rio Negro, recipients of the FMA mission since their arrival in the Amazon, expressed their gratitude for the work done in 100 years by the Sisters, highlighting the legacy of female education which has allowed the transformation of the society of the Region. They said, “We are formed through this education to carry forward our battle for the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples and we women are proud to be part of this history and to nourish our culture without losing our essence,” underlining that “this charism is in our hearts, in our lives, in our resilience.”
On behalf of the Province of Our Lady of the Amazon, Sr. Carmelita Conceição thanked Minister Wilker de Azevedo Barreto for the homage and all those who collaborate in the various works of the Congregation in the State of Amazonas. Sr. Carmelita highlighted that the presence did not begin in the capital, but “in one of the places of difficult access in our Region, the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira”, underlining the courage that made it possible to achieve this recognition, fruit “of the generosity of the Superiors of the time who believed in God’s protection and of the solidarity of so many people involved in this demanding mission”, to realize the dream of Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello, “Until my last breath, I will be for my dear young people.”
The Provincial also highlighted how now “many FMA belong to ethnic groups and today translate the Salesian charism into the diversified language of the peoples of the Amazon, a reason for us to be very proud and to thank God, author of every vocation.” Sr. Carmelita recalled “all the sisters who preceded us”, who “overcame the barriers of language, food, climate, the way of living the daily life of the communities,” who “taught and learned to love and take care of mother earth, to welcome cultural diversity, and to build together a way of being committed to the survival of the planet.”
Speaking of today’s Salesian mission, and of the work that continues to be carried out in the field of education, social centers and shelters, parishes and clinics in indigenous and river communities, she expressed the wish “that the difficulties do not rob us of the courage to be prophetic of a world in which everyone has the right to life, health, and education,” supporting the importance of walking in synodality.
Source: CNBB – Regional Norte 1