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(ANS – Rome) – The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians has reached the age of 140. On 5th August 1872 in Mornese, a small village in the province of Alessandria, 11 young women consecrated themselves to the Lord and gave birth to what would become an international Institute present in 94 countries.
On 5th August 1872 Don Bosco was in Mornese. He had arrived the previous evening to speak to the young women, explaining the significance of the ceremony, teaching them to read the responses and the formula of the vows: “Now you belong to a religious Family”, he said, “which is totally the Madonna’s; you are few in number, you are short of resources and you are not supported by human approval. Let nothing disturb you. […] The Institute will have a great future if you keep yourselves simple, poor and mortified. […] Remember frequently that your Institute must be a living monument to Don Bosco’s gratitude to the great Mother of God, invoked under the title of Help of Christians.” (cf Cronistoria I 305-306)
Don Bosco wanted a female Institute which could complement the educational work which he was carrying out for boys. In Maria Domenica Mazzarello, who would be the co-foundress, and in the first group of girls which met in Mornese, there arose the possibility that his dream would be realised.
Today the FMA Institute numbers 13,653 sisters (as of December 2011) distributed in 1,436 communities in 94 countries of the five continents. Over the years they have kept alive a passion for the education of the young from many different cultures, the integral formation of the person, social solidarity, together with the planning and development of activities involving evangelisation, formation and ‘prevention’ (helping to keep young people out of trouble).
Schools, Vocational Training Centres, family homes, works for street girls, leisure clubs, volunteering, catechesis, works for primary evangelisation, work with indigenous people, works for women’s rights, micro-credit organisations and micro-enterprises … these are just some of the activities through which the FMA seek to live out their mission of educating and evangelising, together with a great many lay collaborators, volunteers and young leaders.
In many countries 5th August has remained the date for first temporary vows or perpetual profession. Particularly significant will be this year’s celebration at Mornese when 5 sisters, currently students at the Auxilium in Rome, will make their perpetual profession in the presence of the Rector Major, Don Pascual Chávez Villanueva and Sister Emilia Musatti, Vicar General.
Each Province will mark the event with celebrations of thanksgiving and prayers for vocations.