Rome (Italy). On 25 August 2022, is celebrated the birth of Blessed Maria Troncatti (16 February 1883 – 25 August 1969), Daughter of Mary Help of Christians missionary in Ecuador from 1922 until her death, the only victim of a plane crash, after having offered her life for the pacification between Shuar and settlers.
Blessed Maria Troncatti was a happy woman, passionate about Jesus. She prayed before her Lord in the silence of the night and dawn and let her heart be filled with His love, his goodness, and His predilection for the poor. Every morning at 3/3:30, she was already in church, to live the practice of the Via Crucis with great devotion and love. During the day, she held the rosary in her hand, she prayed it together with her sick people and every time the work gave her a minute of rest.
On Saturday, she devoted herself with filial affection to praying the ‘rosary of the dawn’, which consists in praising the Blessed Virgin Mary 150 times, as many as the psalms in the psalter, to express her Marian identity. The Eucharistic Jesus, the Most Sacred Heart, and the Help of Christians were her unifying and propelling center, the magnet that strongly attracted her.
A Sister said:
“… She lived as if absorbed in God and, despite her work as a nurse, she was always the first to arrive in church and, both in prayer and in accepting the sacraments of the Eucharist and of penance, something special was noticed in her”.
Even a priest attested that her faith was marked by intense moments of personal and community prayer, while she was all intent on the mission and the care of her ‘children’. Nourished and rooted in prayer, she could face even difficult situations typical of the mission with Salesian joy and simplicity:
“Attentive Mother Mary spent whole hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, begging the Lord like Moses, so that her children would be spared from the danger of being overwhelmed by the waves of the Upanus. She too had to go through it many times, walking on slippery stones, with the water up to her chest, but she never lost her serene joy. ‘Mr. Miguelito, the Lord loves us. Mary Help of Christians is with us’. She said it while she shook her soaked habit”.
Blessed Sr. Maria Troncatti belonged to God, she was passionate about the Salesian mission and knew how to contagion others. She communicated her great love to youth, to the people, in particular to the sick and the ‘unwelcome’, to the sisters who, seeing Sr. Maria’s daring and faith, were able to find in even in themselves the necessary energy for good to support the great trials of the apostolate in the Ecuadorian jungle. It was a true ‘outgoing’ community that proceeded in the mission in a synodal way!
Another Sister wrote:
“How much suffering we endured in our travels through the jungle, in crossing the Upano River, with the ever-present fear that at any moment the river would rise and we would not be able to return when the canoe disappeared, torn away by the waves of the river. However, what gave us perseverance and strength to endure all this was the love that united us with Sr. Maria Troncatti”.
Sr. Maria was courageous and also aware of the dangers. She knew, however, that she was in the hands of God who sent her, because she had devoted herself to the cause of His Kingdom and she was exposing herself for Him. Certain of this, she exhorted, “The Lord is beside us, He will lend us His help” and encouraged those with her to have a generous and trusting heart.
She manifested her passionate “desire for mission” even among family members, before leaving for Ecuador. In a letter dedicated to them in 1936 she wrote:
“Are you telling me not to ask to go to the missions? I do not ask because I really want to do God’s holy will. But if the superiors send me, I will go there with all my heart; my thoughts always go to the missions”.
“With all my heart” was the measure of her missionary passion, so much so that when obedience sent her to the forest, she was able to say that she was “happier every day” with her religious and missionary vocation. In 1939, she wrote in a letter:
“I will say a confidence: I am very, very happy here with the natives; much more than staying in the city of Guayaquil in the midst of the aristocracy. Here, in the middle of this forest, far from all the lies in the world”.
Able to see the essential, to listen to and respond to the cry of the poor, Blessed Maria Troncatti wanted to get out of the schemes of well-being, structures, and security (Cf. Acts General Chapter XXIV, 19-20) to bring Christ to the poor and needy, becoming one of them.
With her heart in God, her mind and hands ready to take care of “her Shuar children” in the harshness of daily life in the forest, she expressed very simple but effective gestures of motherhood. She gave catechism in small doses, welcomed orphaned boys and girls or those unwanted by giving them a home and affection. She visited the sick every day, cooked something for them, did not move from their bed until they were better, went to visit them until they were healed, and encouraged them to pray.
Gestures and sentiments of a solicitous and maternal presence that accompanied and encouraged with words of faith, or rather of a ‘madrecita’, as the Shuar familiarly called her. Attentive motherhood preceded the first proclamation of the Gospel among those people, so that it became a happy and transparent ‘sign’, an example of a presence that can be imitated even today.
On the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the FMA Institute, it is significant to remember the words of Mother Mazzarello, “If you want to become a saint, hurry, there is no time to waste” (L 47,19), and to praise God for the wonders that He worked in the hearts of these sisters. It is a strong call to draw from their interiority to be ‘Mornese outgoing’, in the heart of the challenges of contemporaneity.