Montevideo (Uruguay). From 21 October to 6 November 2023, Mother Chiara Cazzuola was in Uruguay for the Spiritual Exercises of the Provincials of the Interprovincial Conferences of America (CIB – CICSAL – CIMAC – CINAB – NAC) and the Visit to Immaculate Conception Province (URU).
Welcomed at the Montevideo airport by the Provincial Sr. María de los Ángeles Grassi, and by a representation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, she then reached the Provincial House of Villa Colón, the first FMA presence in America.
On 22 October, Mother participated in the Eucharistic Celebration at the Sanctuary of Mary Help of Christians of Villa Colón, in the Pius IX Salesian College, presided over by Fr. Alfonso Bauer, Provincial of the Salesians of Don Bosco, with the participation of various members of the Salesian Family, who celebrated the 80th anniversary of the “Maria Teresa Center”, a work of the Salesian Dames dedicated to social service.
In the afternoon, together with the Provincial and Sister Phyllis Neves, Visiting Councilor visiting the Chilean Province of St. Gabriel the Archangel (CIL), she went to Las Piedras to visit Mother Maddalena Promis Community. Awaiting them with great joy, with songs and percussion instruments, were the retired elderly sisters, who then showed their works on different fabrics. Mother greeted each one with great tenderness, including the bed-ridden Sisters, and addressed them, underlining the missionary spirit of the Institute, asking them to pray for vocations, to be faithful, and to have Jesus at the center of their lives. After the group photo, she took her leave by quoting Mother Mazzarello, “we will meet again in the heart of Jesus”.
In the meantime, the Provincials of America arrived at the Villa Colón House for the Spiritual Exercises, that took place on 23 to 30 October.
Juan Lacaze, a working-class city in the department of Colonia, 150 kilometers from Montevideo, welcomes Mother Chiara on 1 November. Mary Help of Christians Community is located here, which manages the nursery school and the primary school. The pupils together with their teachers prepared skits, songs, and performances for her, which they showed with great enthusiasm. A significant moment was the space for questions from the children, who wanted to know more about the life, vocation, and mission of the “guest of honor”.
The Mayor of the city, Arturo Bentancor invited to the event, honored Mother with a basket of typical products of the Region dedicated to dairy production. The Educating Community instead gave her a wooden artefact depicting a character from Candombe, a typical dance from Uruguay, a clear reflection of the African connection in the roots of this country. After sharing lunch with the FMA Community, she returned to Villa Colón to participate in the Eucharist of All Saints Day presided over by Cardinal Daniel Sturla, Salesian of Don Bosco, together with the members of the Salesian Family present in Uruguay.
On November 2, at Villa Colón, Mother Chiara experienced a fraternal discussion with the Sisters of the different communities. Referring to General Chapter XXIV, she responded to the question “how to be a vocational community today?” “By making the joy of one’s vocation and being an FMA transparent every day is the first condition for being a fruitful community and living the charism among young people with freshness and originality.”
Recalling the category of “presence” as one of the greatest challenges of GC XXIV, she invited all to rely on the presence of Mary, the ever-present Mother and model for being “life-generating communities in the heart of the contemporary world.”
The longest visit was 3 and 4 November to Mary Help of Christians Community of Rivera, a city in the north of the country, on the border with Brazil. The FMA, together with an extraordinary team of lay people, manage three presences of a social nature with various agreements with the State.
At the Children’s Club, an interactive mural created online with a Spanish artist and the children and educators of the center was inaugurated. There she really appreciated the simplicity and closeness with which the children are accompanied and feel at home. At the Youth Center, the young people welcomed her to the sound of percussion and gave her an artifact made by them. After hearing their words of gratitude for the opportunities given to them, she encouraged them to continue to grow and take advantage of the formation opportunities they receive.
In the evening, she participated in the Eucharist at the Salesian parish “San Pedro”. In this Eucharist, the group of Salesian Cooperators, accompanied by the FMA, renewed the promise of belonging to the Salesian Family. In this very active presence of the FMA in the city of Rivera, Mother thanked the Community for its pastoral animation and urged them to continue to be a home and family for everyone.
On this trip, Mother had two other short meetings: with the Bishop of Tacuarembó, Msgr. Pedro Wolcan, who thanked the FMA for their presence in the Diocese; and with Mary Help of Christians Community of Paso de los Toros (Tacuarembó), who follow the chapels of the city.
With the meeting with the Provincial Council, Mother Chiara’s visit ended on Sunday 5 November. To the Sisters, referring to the words that Fr. Rua addressed to the General Council in 1922, she recalled the role of the Councilors in the animation of the Province and the need to belong, participate, and take responsibility for the Institute and the Communities.
The experience of meeting with Mother General was a passage of God in the Province, which nourishes hope and encourages the FMA to walk with greater fidelity to the vocation received and to the Charism, to continue to be signs of the Love of God among the young.