Rome (Italy). On 3 May 2022, the virtual pilgrimage in English ended “A yes that extends over time” on the places of the Salesian Charism, offered by the Formation Sector to the FMA from 70 years of age onwards, as part of the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (1872-2022).
The FMA participated in the pilgrimage divided into two groups, based on the time zone. The 1st group was made up of about 70 sisters from Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka. In the 2nd group there were about 60 sisters from Ireland, Great Britain, United States, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
At the beginning of the pilgrimage, the participants were reminded that “a pilgrimage has two aspects: it is an ‘external’ journey, we move from one place to another physically or, in our case, virtually. But above all, it is an inner journey. As we travel to the sacred places of our Congregation, as we see and hear the words of Don Bosco, Mother Mazzarello, our first sisters, and others, we are invited to let what we see and hear touch our hearts. This pilgrimage is an invitation to transformation and conversion.”
Towards the end of the journey, on 22 April 2022, the Mother General of the FMA Institute, Sr. Chiara Cazzuola, connected in the online mode to meet the groups:
“In the itinerary that you are about to conclude, you celebrated the wonders that the Lord has done through women who believed and trusted in Him. For us after 150 years, measuring ourselves with this experience is something that gives courage and strength. In particular, we are called to make the Charism live with the same joy and the same conviction, I would say, even stronger than our sisters. We celebrate 150 years of the foundation of the Institute in fidelity and gratitude to the Lord, and in gratitude to Mary Help of Christians who desired and wanted us. We are her daughters! This is comforting and fills the heart with joy and hope. Being a living monument means extending this grace over time and making it concrete with our life. Thank you for your life given and your fidelity!”
An FMA expresses gratitude for the opportunity of the Pilgrimage in this way:
“First of all, a heartfelt thanks to all those who let themselves be inspired in preparing this pilgrimage, inviting us to join from every corner of the earth to walk together to the sacred places of our origins and to meet in a truly unique, creative, and spiritual way with people and places that hold memories and life experiences for all of us.
The content and the path of each meeting was a real immersion of our life in those of the beginnings, in particular that of Maìn and our first sisters, despite the great age difference between us and them. She encouraged and urged us to continue the journey with a new heart, with gentleness and gratitude and to learn anew every day to integrate all that comes with faith, hope, and goodness.
Each meeting offered us a lot of time for reflection and sharing, to express gratitude for our call as Daughters of Mary Help of Christians despite the challenges, difficulties, and sacrifices. On our pilgrimage, we discovered that the first communities are still with us today, every time we return home to the holy land of our origins.
Another particular aspect of the pilgrimage was the time given to us at the beginning and at the end of each session to chat with sisters we had known in the past and whom we had not seen for years.
A word of special gratitude goes to the team that welcomed and guided us every week with kindness and competence, accompanying us in a profound reflection that can continue in personal prayer and community sharing. We really do have a Treasure.”
The symbols the sisters shared at the end of the pilgrimage express what the experience meant for them: a key, a pair of glasses, binoculars, sowing new seeds, a field of wildflowers, a battery, a circle of love, and many others. Everyone talks about the inner journey that took place during the weeks of the pilgrimage.
Some resonances of the participants:
- I rediscovered the wisdom of Mary Mazzarello: holiness is not something ‘added’ but it is the way in which we live our reality. Emphasis on the ‘ordinary’.
- I carry with me a deep gratitude for the witness of courage and missionary zeal that Mary Mazzarello, Don Bosco, and the first sisters left us. This encourages me to continue my journey with confidence in the ‘twilight’ years of my life.
- It was lovely to be with sisters my age and to share the reflections of the ‘experienced’ members of the Institute. I’m sure many of us already knew a lot about the spirituality of the Founders and had even visited the places in person a few times, but what struck me was the simplicity and deep insights expressed in sharing.
- It was a profoundly spiritual experience, which rekindled in me a deep appreciation for the gift of my FMA vocation lived under the mantle of Mary.
- I feel I have had the opportunity to praise and thank the Lord for being called to be part of this virtual pilgrimage. I renewed my call on a wonderful journey of fidelity following in the footsteps of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello. In their simplicity of life, they have shown us the way of holiness in the service of young people and among us and continue to encourage us while we are engaged in a different way in the mission, mostly in community, praying and supporting the young sisters in the joyful gift of self.
- A time to revisit the original call – personal and community – and to listen to God’s call in a deeper way. The grace of listening to the Word of God through beautiful presentations and being drawn once again into a moment of renewal.
- I received many graces from God. Firstly, I had a renewed appreciation for my Salesian vocation and I sincerely looked forward to the introductions each week. Being in Mornese helped me to really walk among the hills and the special places so dear in Mother Mazzarello’s native land.