Rome (Italy). On 8 December 2023, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is celebrated, a feast dear to the Salesian Family and precious in the history of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. For the FMA on their way to the glory of the altars, the presence of Mary Immaculate was a reality.
The testimony of Blessed Sr. Maria Troncatti is unique: while she is on her way to Macas, the first journey to the Selva that will be the “homeland of her heart”, she accompanies the return of the image of the “Virgen Purísima de Macas”, venerated in that area and celebrated as the “sworn feast” on 18 February and 5 August each year.
The history of the image dates back to 1592, but a fire had destroyed it in 1891. The inhabitants of Macas kept in their memory the remembrance and gratitude to the Virgin who had saved them from so many dangers. In 1924, the Salesian Father Duroni ordered the painter Vivar of Cuenca to create a painting that was an exact copy of the one in the convent of the Conception in Riobamba, the only thing that survived the fire. That copy arrived in Macas with Sister Maria Troncatti.
The Blessed will turn to her in the most difficult moments showing herself, even in this, a true missionary, able to welcome as her own the same devotion of the people to whom she is sent.
Already during the journey that was to lead her to Macas, in November 1925, Sister Maria was the protagonist of a particular event, a testimony of her faith in the help of the Holy Virgin. The missionary expedition, composed of five Salesians of Don Bosco, five FMA (one still a novice), and 12 helpers, arrives on foot in Méndez, seat of the Vicariate, where it is forced to stop.
A teenage daughter of a Shuar chief is shot during a shootout between opposing families. After four days, the bullet is still stuck in her stomach; the sorcerers could not do anything. The Shuar leaders, who learned that among the members of the expedition there is a ‘doctor’, go to Sister Mary saying, “If you cure her, we will respect you, but if she dies, we will kill you.” A significant gesture says that the same fate will be reserved for the other members of the expedition.
The Apostolic Vicar, the Salesian Bishop Msgr. Domenico Comin, encouraged her. “Operate on her.” “With what instruments?” Sister Maria objected. The Provincial, Mother Carolina Mioletti, insisted, “All of us will pray while you work.” in the meantime, the girl is watching.
In the face of this need, Sister Maria took courage and used the little she had and all her faith. While a group of missionaries went to pray, others helped her.
In the presence of the whole tribe that observes what she does. Pronouncing “Maria Auxilium Christianorum“, she cuts decisively and the bullet shoots out as if pushed from the inside. Everyone rejoices, leaving the way clear for her and the other members of the expedition. She thus earned the esteem of the Shuar, by whom she will be considered “the witch most witch of all witches.”
On 1 December, they set off – 28 people in total – this time helped by the Maquenses who join them in Méndez. Another four days of walking until reaching Arapicos, where a commission came to meet them and welcome the reproduction of the “Virgen Purísima de Macas”, that arrived in one of the boxes on the bearers’ shoulders.
The last day of the journey to Macas begins with Holy Mass. The image of the Immaculate Conception is placed on a small altar, while those present sing fervently: “Turn your eyes, Our Lady, full of mercy, oh my beautiful hope, my sweet love, Mary.”
At the end of the Holy Mass, we read the text of the sixth day of the novena to the Immaculate; we recite the Ave Maria, and the procession starts again. At the head of the procession, the image of the Blessed Virgin skirts the river Upano and gets to the confluence with the Jurumbaino, where it must pass on a bridge made of vines and logs, a real danger. Applause and deep emotion welcome the image of the Immaculate Conception; some are crying; everyone is kneeling!
Sister Maria will never forget awaking that morning on 5 December, when she heard the song, “Wake up your hearts to praise Mary.” It is the Rosary of the Dawn, in which all the Sisters join; a custom brought back to Macas by the teacher Mercedes Navarrete.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception of 1925 is memorable. The picture is decorated with white and blue silks, but the biggest surprise is to find organized the Association of the Daughters of Mary, to the absolute merit of Miss Mercedes Navarrete.
On 5 August 1969, twenty days before her death, Sister Troncatti asked Sister Carlota Nieto to accompany her to the solemn feast of the Immaculate Conception in Macas and to bid her farewell… To the Animator of Macas, who sees her crying, she explains that something tragic would happen only to her. “I will not leave the mission; my body will be in the shadow of the Immaculate; no one will touch me,” she affirms.
“Trust in the Virgin, my son, my daughter,” Sister Maria Troncatti always repeated, who today leaves this mandate to each and every one.