Ovada (Italy). On 12 March 2022, at the Regional Enoteca of Ovada and Monferrato, in the province of Alessandria, Sr. Maria Vanda Penna, Animator of the Community of St. Mary D. Mazzarello of Mornese of the Mary Help of Christians Province (IPI), spoke at the conference on St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello entitled “My gaze from Mornese to the world”.
The conference was the first of four events as part of the “Women in Ovada 2022” initiative, proposed around International Women’s Day to recognize the professionalism, activities, and commitment of women who have given to the community of the Ovada area a professional, cultural, religious contribution.
After the greeting of the Mayor of Mornese, Simone Pestarino, and the intervention of Emiliana Conti, President of the Marchesi del Monferrato Association who collaborates with the Enoteca, the word was given to Sr. Maria Vanda Penna, invited by a Past Pupil of the Courses of CIOFS / FP Piedmont originally from Mornese, to present Mary Domenica Mazzarello, a holy woman of the second half of the nineteenth century, in her spirituality and entrepreneurial ability.
Sr. Maria Vanda briefly outlined her life, following the intertwining of profound spirituality and her taking on the social problems and poverty that affected women above all. Although not familiar with Rerum Novarum, the Church’s first social encyclical, in the activity of Mother Mazzarello one sees an anticipation of it. It is certainly the work of the Holy Spirit and of an acute gaze on the reality of her time.
The intuition of giving life in those days to a workshop, a real seamstress’ shop, for the girls of Mornese and its surroundings, is today something incredible. From there came perfect products, because they were made with the intention that “every stitch is an act of love for God“.
Then there is the encounter with Don Bosco promoted by Fr. Domenico Pestarino and life changed. The new Institute is envisaged, which was born on 5 August 1872 with the religious profession of the first eleven Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, all belonging to the Pious Union of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. The workshop continues, and immediately an oratory and school are born, all for the education of children and young girls. The same happens when Don Bosco has them transferred from Mornese to Nizza Monferrato.
On her death at the age of 44, St. Mary Mazzarello left 26 communities in four Countries, 139 Sisters, and 50 novices. Sr. Maria Vanda Penna ends her presentation with these words, “Here are the roots of today that give hope and, in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute, one can only be grateful”.