Mornese (Italy). On 13 May 2021, the Salesian Family celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Mary Domenica Mazzarello, Co-founder of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Sister Maria Vanda Penna, Director of the Community of Saint Mary Domenica Mazzarello of Mornese (Alessandria), of the Piedmontese Province of Mary Help of Christians (IPI), highlights the presence of Our Lady in the main stages of Mother Mazzarello’s life.

Devotion to Mary Help of Christians of the people of Mornese

When Maín was born, in Mornese there were still the consequences of the cholera that had raged in Piedmont since 1835. The inhabitants tried by this scourge, had turned to Mary Help of Christians and, after the cholera, had expressed their thanks to Mary by dedicating a small church to her, solemnly blessed and open to the public on 24 May 1843. Restored in 1964 and then renewed again, today it testifies to the trust in Mary Help of Christians on the part of the people of Mornese.

Mary’s comfort during the typhus epidemic

An image entitled Auxilium Christianorum is painted in front of the facade of the house that today is called ‘the house of the typhus’, an image that certainly comforted Maín during her long illness, keeping her company and instilling confidence in her. Ferdinando Maccono writes, “At Maín’s time, every Saturday a lamp was lit in front of that image, and every Sunday evening in May and in good weather, the people of the district gathered there to recite the Rosary and sing Litanies to the queen of heaven. Certainly also Maín, when she was healthy, had joined the other women and girls…As she had spent her childhood near a chapel dedicated to the Help of Christians, so she regained new life under the gaze of an image of Our Lady, invoked with the sweet title of Help of Christians” (F. Maccono, Saint Mary D. Mazzarello, Chapter VIII, p. 83).

Our Lady of Sorrows and Immaculate Conception

When Fr. Domenico Pestarino returned to Mornese from Genoa, he brought with him the beautiful painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, attributed to the Florentine painter Dolci or to his school, and wanted the chapel of the nascent College dedicated to the Sorrowful Mother. Our Lady of Sorrows was teacher and model for the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, including Mary Mazzarello.

The Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Immaculate Conception were the basis and strength of the Marian devotion of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello: learn to suffer with love and for love, learn to imitate purity of heart, free from worldly worries, to rush to help and teach to live with dignity those who are most exposed to dangers, from the little girls of the town, then to the indigenous people of Patagonia through her daughters.

The Superior is Mary Help of Christians  

The gesture of placing the house keys at the foot of the image of Mary when she was by now the Superior of the FMA Community brings together a multiplicity of meanings. The house keys symbolically belong to the head of the family, therefore the Superior is Mary Help of Christians, of whom she feels she is the Vicar; the keys ‘open and close’ and guard the intimacy of the house, entrusted to the Mother of God. The keys that open express welcome; the keys that lock, reserve and guarding the family.

The most important element is entrustment, the trust placed in Mary, the Mother who knows how to suffer in silence and in the offering of her life, indicating paths of light to her children and supporting their journey towards the Kingdom.


  1. The role of Mother Mary in the life Mother Mazzarello is an inspiration for me. Her role in her life is commendable. The same mother continues to accompany me in all the events and situations of my…personal life and mission. May mother Mary be a guiding star, a mother who never desert her children. A sure hope in time of desperation a mother in time of pain and suffering, an inspirrer in time of discouragement. A perfect model to look upon and to be imitated and loved. Because she is my mother and of all humankind. She a perfect face Christ to me.


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