(Italy). ‘The dynamic Power of a Charism’ is the title of a book written by Maria Vanda Penna, FMA on the life of Mother Marinella Castagno, Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, published by VELAR Editors, in October of 2020.
In this work done with passion and love, freshness and vivacity, Sister Maria Vanda gives us vibrant pages from the life of Mother Marinella Castagno, an authentic and faithful existence, imbued with the style of Mornese.
Mother Marinella was a great educator and formator for many young people and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. She was a wise and far-sighted Mother who accompanied and guided a very important phase in the development of the FMA Institute, in a time of great transformations in the Church, in society, and in the Salesian Family.
In the text one often finds the words of Mother Marinella and the affectionate and grateful witness of many FMA and lay people. It was an explicit choice of the Author who writes, “I tried as much as possible to let her or the witnesses speak so that her profile would emerge from life, from her thoughts, from her life of faith, and from the great good offered, for having abandoned herself totally to the love of the Father, and for having believed in the dynamism of the Salesian charism as a gift of the Spirit to the Church.”
The presentation of the social and historical-geographical context of the Castagno family, with which the narration opens, allows us to grasp the climate that contributed to her formation as a woman, an attentive and responsible citizen, a religious rooted in Christ, and dedicated entirely to the world of youth.
From her experience as a student, teacher, animator, and provincial, a marked educational sensitivity emerges that led her to understand the needs of young people and of many FMA, to meet the healthy needs of all who felt deeply loved and understood by her.
As Councilor and Mother General she always met the sisters, young people, collaborators directly, with an openness to dialogue and also to listening to dissonant voices, to understand what Mary Help of Christians really asked of the FMA Institute.
Some of the most characteristic aspects of her life and mission are considered the fixed points of her spirituality and her rich teaching: her profound sense of God’s Fatherhood, simple and essential prayer, the option for the poorest young people, fraternity, desire for the unity of the Church and the Institute, filial love for Mary, her uninterrupted spending of herself for her sisters, freedom, simplicity in relationships with all, true and human relationships full of warm welcome of who the other is, the ability to grasp the good even where no one sees it. This was the secret of that wisdom, serenity, and peace that transpired from her gaze and her words.
Openness to the times and fidelity to the Gospel are key words for living the spirit of Mornese today. Today, which for Mother Marinella, is God’s time, the time of salvation, the time to love and know in depth, because it is here that the Word of God is incarnated and it is today that we make the charism shine with the young people, with the laity who share the educational mission with us.
“We value the past,
we look at the present with its richness,
however, let us look to the future
with trembling but fervent hope.”
(Mother Marinella Castagno)