One of the attributes that characterized Mother Elisa Roncallo, and attributed exclusively to her as Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, is that of good Mother.  In these two simple words that have the flavor of everyday life and the fragrance of relationships, there is her life given for her dear neighbor.

Mother Elisa Roncallo, born at Manassero, in the commune of Saint Olcese, Genoa on January 30, 1856, belonged to an honest and poor working family.  Orphaned of her father, she knew Don Bosco through her spiritual director, who suggested that she go to Mornese to the nascent Institute

of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, where, impressed by the atmosphere that reigned there, in spite of the poverty that verged on misery, and with the accompaniment of the Co-foundress, Mary Domenica Mazzarello, she decided to consecrate herself to the Lord in 1874. She becomes an elementary school teacher, earns her degree in gymnastics, studies French and piano. But above all, she will be remembered for her ability to give herself to others without measure, to go to look for the poorest and neediest without distinction, to surround herself with benefactors to fulfill her desire for the good, to ally herself with institutions, including the mayor of Nizza Mr. Vittorio Buccelli, attorney, to give a concrete answer to the needs of the territory

Her objective: to live the preventive system in everything, just like Don Bosco: from small stratagems to approach the girls in a pleasant way, to joining outlying works such as the women’s prisons of Turin; from creating groups in which to gather the young, to caring for the sisters who are most in need, from writing to soldiers in the war, to organizing initiatives to bring them comfort.

In September 1878, we find her in Nizza Monferrato, as the first principal of the girls’ school, and where she will remain for her whole life, also holding prestigious positions within the Institute. Above all, she will be remembered for her great ability to help anyone who was in difficulty: she became small with the little ones, motherly with those who were prey to uncertainty, in solidarity with those who suffered; able to relate to the smallest and the humblest, but also to the authorities and the influential people of the town, with whom she collaborated for the good of the least and the marginalized, in times when there was no public assistance or support.

In the presence of a very large group of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and lay people coming not only from Piedmont – Alessandria, Asti, Turin and Cuneo – but also from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, after the welcome of Sr. Nanda Filippi, Principal of the Our Lady of Grace Institute, Fr Paolino Siri, parish priest of Nizza M. and Vaglio Saluto, recalled that the good done by Mother Elisa was like a mustard seed: from every small gesture was born a large plant.

Ausilia Quaglia brought greetings from the administration of Nizza M; Sr. Emma Bergandi, Vice Provincial, on behalf of the Provincial, Sr. Elide Degiovanni, welcomed the initiative; Dr. Walter Baglietto, Bishop’s delegate for the Cultural Center of the diocese of Acqui, highlighted the work in synergy being carried out between the FMA Historical Archive in Nizza and the Diocese, with the support and contributions of the CEI as well.

Sr. Paola Cuccioli, Head of the Historical Archive and organizer of the day, opened the conference proceedings. Dr. Tiziana Ciampolini, Italian representative in the Social Innovation and Social Economy Task Force of Caritas Europe moderated the various interventions.

Dr. Giuseppe Baldino, Director of INPS – Piedmont Regional Directorate, illustrated Nizza between the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, also underlining the figure of Vittorio Buccelli, one of the mayors of Nizza closest to Mother Elisa Roncallo.

Professor Ausilia Quaglia, a past pupil, retired teacher, and Councilor in the municipality of Nizza, illustrated some features of the very rich biography of Mother Elisa Roncallo; Professor Grazia Loparco FMA, Professor of Church History at the Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium” in Rome and Vice President of the Association of Salesian History Curators ACSSA, introduced some ideas on “Italian women between the eighteen and nineteen hundreds – Notes on a new scenario.”

Professor Piera Ruffinatto FMA, Principal of the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences “Auxilium” of Rome, focused on Elisa Roncallo, a true interpreter of Don Bosco’s Preventive System.

Salesian education was transformed into the buffet prepared by the students of the CFP of Casale Monferrato who, in addition to demonstrating their competence through the delicacy of what they prepared, also showed great professionalism and pleasantness in their service. In the afternoon, their colleagues from the courses at Nizza M. Agricultural Work and Aesthetic Well-Being Work presented their courses and showed the new, modern workshops where, in Salesian style, along with a job, young people learn to develop all the their energies for the good; in this way they can grow as honest citizens, good Christians, and future inhabitants of Heaven.

In the afternoon, the exhibit “Mother Elisa Roncallo: woman, religious, educator of action” was prepared in the Church of the Sacred Heart, where she herself had expressed the desire to be buried in order to continue to watch and pray for her girls.

In this scenario, Dr. Maurizio Martino and Professor Silvia Stanchi, of the theater company “to the Madonna”, read the correspondence between the Hon. Vittorio Buccelli and Mother Elisa Roncallo, which testifies to their great zeal for people who had urgent needs both for poor family situations and for the educational problems of their children.

A very rich day, in the name of a figure who will continue to be studied and of whom it will be interesting to research her bond with the area more and more.

Coming soon on the site of the Historical Archive of Nizza there will be photos and videos of the day.

Letters of Mother Elisa Roncallo to Major Corporal Carlo Frola


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