Rome (Italy). In addition to living the experience of the XXV Course of On-going Missionary Formation, held from 9 October to 10 November 2023 at the Salesian Pontifical University, the twelve participating Daughters of Mary Help of Christians coming from all over the world, were able to experience other meetings and formative and charismatic moments organized by the Mission Sector, in Rome and in the places of the origins.
Welcomed by Mary Help of Christians Community of the General House of Rome (RCG), they had meetings with the Councilors and Coordinators of the Sectors and on 9 November, they met with the Superior General of the FMA Institute, Mother Chiara Cazzuola.
Mother opened her talk by inviting the sisters to focus on the missionary passion that characterized the Founders:
“Mother Mazzarello’s words invite us to be essentials in life, reminding us that it is necessary to ‘learn to love the Lord’ and this requires a constant journey, but also a clarity of perspective. If we have concentrated our expectations and hopes in the Lord, we find Him as the center and profound meaning of our existence. (…) Our Founders lived constantly as seekers of God and deeply rooted in Christ. Centered in Him, like the vine and the branches, they were capable of living the absolute radicality of the cetera tolle, to become instruments of salvation, a manifestation of merciful Love for the young people of their time.”
The rich experience of “HOME” lived in the Generalate, “in the house of the Mother”, the synodality and fraternal coexistence experienced with the Salesian brothers of Don Bosco and with the other participants in the UPS Course, allowed everyone to deepen their calling to missionary life ad gentes, to “rekindle the fire” and the passion of da mihi animas coetera tolle, and of being FMA educators and missionaries of young people.
Mother General highlighted that, “Personal and community fidelity to the call is expressed in the passion for the mission in a fervent, enthusiastic, and convinced pastoral care, which tries all roads to offer young people strong proposals in a systematic way. She identifies with the da mihi animas coetera tolle until her last breath, until the cry of the dying Don Bosco: ‘Hurry, hurry quickly to save those young people! Holy Mary, help them…Mother, Mother!’ (Cf. MB XVIII p. 530).
She continued, “We are convinced that the first form of the missionary spirit is to help young people to experience ‘home’, which commits each one to creating a family atmosphere, to giving them a place where they can meet, feel loved, valued, build relationships, dream, be accompanied, be able to discern God’s plan for their lives, and be able to look to the future with hope.”
In recent weeks, the visit to the Community of Sant’Egidio, the pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul in Rome, the pilgrimage in the footsteps of Francis in Assisi, and the possibility of experiencing a time of fraternity and conviviality with the General Councilors and with Mother were also very significant. There they experienced the spirit of a large Family that lives and struggles in different contexts throughout the world since the beginning of the Congregation and the first FMA missionaries, on 14 November 1877.
Mother Chiara, recalling the charismatic origins, highlighted that, “In Mornese all the FMA wanted to be missionaries and many requested it, beginning with Mother. Addressing the Director General, Fr. John Cagliero, Mary Domenica expressed her desire, ‘Now listen to what I have to say. Save me a place in America, but seriously. It is true that I am good for nothing, but I know how to make polenta, and then I would see to it that too much soap would not be wasted when washing the clothes. And if you wish, I will also learn a bit of cooking. In short, I am ready to do everything possible to please you all, if only you will let me come’ (L 6,11).
From a letter of Mother Mazzarello, we learn that at Mornese the Sisters were studying Spanish in order to prepare themselves to leave for the missions. Even Mother Mazzarello began to study it as we see from a letter sent to Fr. Cagliero, ‘Todas las muchachas quieren venir con usted en Buenos Aires’ (L 5,14). The same is deduced from a letter sent in December of 1878, to the first American Novice, Sr. Laura Rodriquez, in which we read, ‘I understood your note even though it was written in Spanish.’ (L 18, 1). The fervent atmosphere of the community contagioned the girls as well.
Sharing the dream of our Founders, we are called to rediscover with even more enthusiasm and responsibility the meaning of ‘walking together’ as educating communities with the young people, to give them reasons for hope, for joy, and to awaken in them the meaning of a life given for love; the meaning of the missionary spirit, of protagonism in view of change and of a more just and fraternal society.”
The Course participants expressed their gratitude to the Institute and to their Provinces for having given them the possibility to life this time of grace so especially formative in which to nourish the sense of belonging to the Institute.