Rome (Italy). From 9 to 12 February 2023, in Rome, at the headquarters of St. John Bosco Province (IRO), the formation meeting for the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians from 7 to 10 years of religious profession took place, in which 26 FMA from the seven Italian Provinces, accompanied by Sr. Mara Tagliaferri, Sr. Cristina Festa, and Sr. Simona Bisin. The objective of the meeting was to interrupt ordinary life, meet, and re-read the personal and community experience of the vow of obedience, in order to then be able to assume it more deeply in daily life.
The story of the participants:
The formative experience was preceded by personal reflection. Each one was asked to identify a person or concrete situation that could significantly testify to obedience in daily life and to present it briefly. The collection of photos, texts, and videos gave life to an exhibit that allowed each one to immediately listen to the concrete reality and started profound sharing, facilitated by mutual knowledge and by the climate of fraternity and simplicity that characterized the days.
Some places chosen for prayer were also significant: the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of St. Peter, which invited us to return to the heart, to the origin of our choice, and to renew our love for Christ, for Mary, an obedient woman and Help of Christians in the faith, for the Church and for the Pope.
Then there was the direct meeting with listening to authoritative witnesses: Fr. Fabio Rosini, biblical scholar; the New Horizons Community, founded by Chiara Amirante to bring hope to those who live in situations of social hardship; and the Mother General of the FMA Institute, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola. Everyone spoke to us first of all with their life and also provoked us with some questions.
Fr. Rosini, speaking of vocations, asked us, “Do you think there is a lack of fish or of water? Are vocations missing or is the Church missing? Is there a lack of vocations or of Salesian Sisters?” And again, “What does it mean today to obey the Salesian charism? What is constitutive and essential?” This led us to reflect and clarify priorities and goals, reminding us that “priorities are more important than projects, because for a Christian, it is the ultimate goal that decides everything, and those who disobey their priorities to respond to emergencies are foolish.”
He invited us to become who we are, to know and respect our DNA, to live first of all obedience to reality and history, respecting the laws and limits of our body and what is essential for living a consecrated Salesian life. He then exhorted us to live filial obedience, that believes in the love of the Father, which only obeys God, and which by its nature is not imposing but exhortative, since it asks to be loved, espoused, incarnated.
Our Salesian identity was then spontaneously given back to us by a member of the New Horizons Community of Frosinone. “You Salesians are the ones who generate the home, who generate that family atmosphere that distinguishes you with an amiable and cordial personality.”
Mother Chiara, who dedicated plenty of time to our questions in dialogue with us in a simple, sincere, and fraternal way, renewed the invitation to us FMA to be communities that generate life, that is, communities of women who are mothers.
We asked her to indicate five priorities for living the charism independently of the geographical-cultural context that we bring: the shared mission; the Da mihi animas coetera tolle lived to the letter; faith understood as trust and total self-surrender to the Lord; prayer, which is Word and daily Bread, personal and community prayer, interwoven with personal moments of contact with the Eucharistic Jesus; in the heart, however, we find Jesus himself. “Put nothing before the love of Christ” said St. Benedict, our everything, that is, the profound motivation for our vocation.
From these beautiful days lived with intensity and in fraternity, we returned home with a certainty: obedience, like education, is a matter of the heart.