Tag Archives: Maria Mazzarello

Auxilium Park Circus FMAs Celebrate Foundation Day

Foundation Day (L to R): Dali, Thudian, C.M. Paul, Susanna, Salomi, Rosina and Anima.

KOLKATA – The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at Park Circus Kolkata celebrated the FMA institute’s foundation day 5th August. The Salesian Sister’s three-member community on Seyd Amir Ali Avenue is on the opposite side of the big Park Circus maidan (grounds) which has the landmark Don Bosco School on Darga Road.
It is about 10 minutes walk skirting the footpath along the grounds… At 6 am in the morning one need not dodge pairs of tiny tots sitting out side some 20 hutments of refugee families from Bangladesh living on the pavement. That time of the morning on a rainy day one only sees 20 x 10 feet makeshift plastic-sheet tenements sitting on the pavement along the park.
Two young Sisters (Anima and Dali) from neighbouring Auxilium Parish community Tengra joined Park Circus community of 3 Sisters (Rosina, Susanna and Thudian) and the domestic helper Salomi for 6.30 am Eucharist.
After a 30 minute cycle-rickshaw ride through the by-lanes and gullies, the junior Sisters arrived to add voice to the singing assisted by the community Superior Sr Rosnia on the keyboards.
The FMA institute started at Mornese (NW Italy) in 1872 with 11 Sisters along with co-foundress Maria Domenica Mazzarello making their first profession in front of Bishop of Aqui, co-founder Don Bosco and Don Pestarino their parish priest.
The celebrant recalled what Don Bosco told the first batch of Sisters: “remain simple, poor and mortified… and I assure you, your institute will have great future!”
The celebrant further encouraged the Sisters not to make the celebration as a mere tick off event. He insisted that the Sisters use the same TIC to make a meaningful day suggesting the need for Thanksgiving, Inspiration and Commitment as key points for their commemoration.
The Park Circus community which runs a primary school for about 150 children and helps in the parish church across the street bought the building from a Khasi Catholic lady some 50 years ago.

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Priest “Embedded” with Sisters Grabs Eye-balls

Fr. C.M. Paul with Project Mornese animators & Kolkata participants

ROME – The Bangkok based Asian Catholic news agency  www.ucanews.com published 4th June 2010 an article under the headline “Salesian priest ‘embedded’ with the sisters.” It was a story put together in Bangkok from my blog on project Mornese in www.cmpaul.wordpress.com. It was subsequently published in www.cathnewsindia.com and www.religiousindia.org and several others. Not only that, www.ucanews.com has still [1st July] on their home page with link and write up on my blog “NewsGrab”. I was amazed by the flutter (interest) the article on “embedded” priest created among my “friends”.
The 31 English speaking Sisters who daily followed my blog and sent the link to their friends had no problem with the word. They hailed from three continents, ten countries and 16 provinces. May be they did not understand the meaning of the word!
Soon after the piece appeared on UCAN site, I got a letter from a concerned friend who wrote “I read the UCAN story calling you an “embedded” journalist. Worse still you are embedded with the Sisters. The term is pejorative and is used with misuse of journalism for propaganda purpose. I would not like to see you as an embedded journalist even if you are with good FMAs.” That was a compliment to the Sisters and my writing talent, which my friend did not want to see tarnished with “propaganda” writing. Fare enough!
Some other well informed “friends” in the Salesian University Rome and even in the Social Communications Faculty had a debate on the word “embedded” accusing me of seeking sensationalism.
Anyone reading through the piece will see that there is nothing sensational other than the word in the headline which definitely worked to grab their eye balls… normally the same guys would flip over such drab piece on a renewal programme by a bunch of nuns! Compliment is due the copy editor and headline writer at the UCAN office. The headline worked, buddy!
If so, why should there be any grudge… The piece got noticed and read because it had an eye-ball grabbing word. Or is it a matter of attitude, bias or perverse perception!
“Seems a very childish 14-year-old-boy-behind-the-bike-shed response to a word that includes “bed” but doesn’t have anything to do with it. Says some alarming things about how their [my “friends”] minds work. Just nuts!” responds Bill Condie UCAN editor in Bangkok who used the word in the story.
“It was a nice little joke based on journalists in the Iraq war attached to fighting platoons.
I don’t think they [my detractors] quite get what sensational journalism is if they think this is,” explains the Australian journalist, who heads UCAN editorial operations as news editor. Condie has “spent 30 years in British secular press.”
Those who missed the eyeball grabber may do a Google search on “embedded priest” or just click the link below.
http://www.religiousindia.org/2010/06/09/salesian-priest-%E2%80%98embedded%E2%80%99-with-the-sisters/

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St Maria Domenica Mazzarello Visits Project Mornese Sisters

Sr Rita Fernandes as Mazzarello with animators

MORNESE, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – St Maria Domenica Mazzarello paid a visit to her first house and the place of her first religious profession, 27th June. It was at the conclusion of the thanksgiving Eucharist in the evening she made her appearance. She talked to the Project Mornese English speaking group of 29 Sisters and two animators and their chaplain. The Sisters belonged to 10 countries and 16 provinces from three continents of North America, Asia and Europe. The month-long journey of re-discovering their Christian faith and religious charism had three phases: Rome, Turin and Mornese.
Mother Mazzarello congratulated the animators of the group Sr Maire and Sr Edna Mary for their relentless efforts in accompaniment of the group as well as imparting first hand experience on the spirituality of the Salesian Sisters.

L to R: Animators Edna & Maire, chaplain C.M. Paul

St Maria Mazzarello was fascinated by the fact the group spent a lot of time studying her letters and visiting the places she frequented with her Sisters and girls. Of special mention was the Roverno water front where she spent the whole day every week doing the laundry. Mother Mazzarello had also words of praise for the chaplain who according to her “proved a worthy son of Don Bosco with his simple and affable ways and ready willingness to adapt to the Sisters just like a brother.”
After the mass, the group gathered for felicitation of the animators and the chaplain. The group welcomed them with the song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Sr Loretta, on behalf of the group gave reasons why the three (Maire, Edna and Paul) be declared saints. Among other supposed virtues, she mentioned their indefatigable zeal and performance in journeying with the project Mornese group. Besides felicitating the three with song and dance, Sisters hailing from various provinces presented surprise gifts too.

Project Mornese English speaking group June 2010

After dinner, the group gathered again with the Sisters of the Mornese Collegio community to felicitate them and thank them for the wonderful hospitality. Besides PowerPoint presentation of the month-long spiritual journey with the song “Miracles Do Happen,” there were two Indian dances, Samoan dance and three group songs on Mornese spirituality. After mutual exchange of gifts, the superior Sr Candida presented each one with Mother Mazzarello key chain and gelato.
28 June, the group will make a day trip to Nizza, to where Mother Mazzarello moved to when she left Mornese Collegio.

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Salesian Sisters Make Pilgrimage to Rocchetta Shrine

Saying Rosary outside La Rocchetta shrine.

LA ROCCHETTA LERMA, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – The Project Mornese English language group of Sisters went on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Graces shrine at La Rocchetta Lerma after lunch, 26 June. A group of 12 Sisters went by foot in the blazing sun on an 8 km route by road with Sr Edna Mary Mac Donald. While a second group of 12 Sisters went by bus covering 6 kms with Sr Maire O’Byrne. Four senior Sisters were given a drop by car to the hill-top shrine where Maria Mazzarello would take her girls and Sisters for outings. The last bit of the hill-cart road to the shrine is rather steep climb which takes about 25 minutes.
The main Sanctuary “Our Lady of Rocchetta“, built in 1290 is on one side of the river Piota. It depended on the monastery of Cistercian Nuns of Santa Maria di Banno. Beside the church is a building, originally used as a hospice for people travelling through the area.

Sisters await the line bus to return to Collegio.

In 1619, Agostino and Cecilia Spinola were Marquises of Lerma. They vowed to restore the shrine and place there a painting which they had in their castle if they were blessed with son. They were blessed with the birth of twins and a canvas of the children with their parents was placed above the main altar. The painting of Our Lady was inserted into the centre of this painting. Since then devotion to Our Lady of Rocchetta has grown among the inhabitants of Lerma and the surrounding areas. The shrine today is in a poor state of repair as it is seldom used. The valuables once housed there have been transferred to Lerma parish church.
The FMA Cronistoria records that in July 1876 “the day finished with a pleasant walk to the sanctuary of the Rocchetta, honoured by the company of the parish priest and the marquis and marchioness d’Oria of Mornese (II, 197).
It was here too that while the Sisters were on a pilgrimage-picnic to celebrate the feast of Mary Help of Christians, Mary [Mazzarello] made address for a little girl, who was in rags, from the petticoat of one of the Sisters (II, 249-250).
“When the assistant reported that we had been exceptionally good, Mother would arrange an outing to the sanctuary of Rocchetta. The picnic supplies would be sent ahead with a man who had a wagon. As you can imagine, the whole day was a real treat for us.” (Maccono I, 332).

Abp S. Ferrando SDB

On August 3rd 1976, a plaque was unveiled and blessed to commemorate Mary Mazzarello’s visits to the shrine. It is reported that Salesian Archbishop Stephen Ferrando of Shillong-Guwahati, founder of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians blessed the plaque. In early 1969, when the Government of India declared that foreign missionaries must be recalled and replaced by locals, Archbishop Ferrando resigned and retired to Italy, where he died June 21, 1978. He was born in Rossiglione N. Italy bordering Ovada close to Mornese, September 28, 1895. The Diocesan Inquest of Servant of God Stephan Ferrando opened on 8th October 2003 and concluded on 3rd August 2006.

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Filed under Bishops, Don Bosco, Maria Mazzarello, Mazzarelli, Nun's Story, Project Mornese, Salesian, Salesian Sisters, School, Stephen Ferrando

Salesian Sisters experience desert day

Asian cultural symbols at the Eucharist.

MORNESE, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – The Sisters of the project Mornese English speaking group had a unique day. They called it the desert day. After Morning Prayer and breakfast, each Sister put together her own lunch packet. Being a Friday, there was neither salami nor prosciutto to put into their pannino. Sr. Ines, in charge of the kitchen had instead omelets prepared which they gladly put in their sandwich buns.
They also picked up a packet of juice, a fruit (banana or apple or a pear), as well as some wafers and bread sticks. More enterprising sisters also picked up yogurt left over from the breakfast.
The animators told the Sisters they could go any where for the whole day only on one condition that they report back for 5.00 pm Eucharist at the Collegio chapel.

Sr Ines stirring up polenta -photo by Sr Loretta

Some of the more adventurous Sisters went over to Valponasco (40 minutes walk) , others to the Mazzarelli (20 minutes walk), still others spent the day at the Collegio devoting quality time in silent prayer at the room of Mother Mazzarello, or sat at the Mornese well. Some even went over to the parish Church or to the village, while others hit the road to the open fields.
The day was exceptionally fine with bright sun and clear sky. In the evening the Sisters returned for the Eucharistic celebration on the theme of Praise and Thanksgiving for the days spent thus far – learning, praying and living the spirit of St Maria Mazzarello.

Bangalore province with Animators

The evening concluded with written evaluation and group discussion on Project Mornese. It was followed by a presentation on Project Jerusalem which is a similar on-going formation programme for the Salesian Sisters, similar to the Project Mornese. It is hoped that the programme which started off in 2006 will provide opportunity to every Salesian Sister to see, touch and live in the land of Jesus for some three months. To date nine groups of Sisters have gone through the programme which was the dream child of Mother General Catherine Daghero when she visited Holy Land in 1906.

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Sisters Go Second Time to Valponasco Mazzarello Home

Open air Eucharistic celebration at Valpanasco

VALPONASCO, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – The Project Mornese English (PME) speaking Sisters returned to Valponasco, the Domenica Maria Mazzarello home now turned into a spirituality centre, for a second time, 24 June. This time, it was for a day of prayer and reconciliation.
After a 40 to 45 minute walk, on a bright sunny day, the Sisters refreshed themselves in the shade of lime, plane, oak and pine trees on Valponasco hill. They had a good view of the newly repaired bell tower of Mornese parish church and settlements in the distance overlooking the verdant valley skirted with vineyards.
After a quick picnic lunch, the Sisters settled down under the tree shade for a reconciliation service followed by individual confession and open air solemn Eucharistic celebration. The highlight of the Mass was a procession with the Bible around the Valponasco home singing the opening song from the Godspel musical: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” The procession also marked the solemnity of the nativity of St John the Baptist, as well as the name feast of St John Bosco which is also the day of the Salesian Rector Major’s feast.

Bible procession at Valpanasco Mazzarello Home

While Mornese morning starts with prayer, input sessions and reflection on the life and writings of the co-foundress St Maria Mazzarello, afternoons are spent exploring the places associated with Mazzarello – the Collegio (first house of the FMA institute) where PME is put up (11-28 June at Mornese), Mazzarelli & Valponasca (houses where Maria Mazzarello grew up), Roverno river where Mazzarello and Sisters had their laundry done, the parish church, the work room and the house of the Immaculate where young Mazzarello organized her group to work for local girls.

Sisters with Valponasca care-taker Sr Iva Bolsi

Every evening, different provinces took turns to share their special ministry to the young with creative PowerPoint presentations or short films. The group also saw a B/W film on St Mary Mazzarello, as well as the two part, 2004 film on Don Bosco.
The PME Sisters mostly in their 40s and above come from 10 countries of three continents – North America, Asia and Europe. The Indian Sisters form the largest single country group totaling 16 Sisters from six Indian provinces. Participants from other Asian countries include Cambodia, Timor, the Philippines and Israel.
Since 1996, more than 200 sisters a year have gone through this innovative on-going formation program to absorb the charism of their founders Don Bosco and Maria Mazzarello and regale salesianita’ from its source.

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Filed under Collegio Mornese, DB Past Pupil, Don Bosco, Education, Maria Mazzarello, Nun's Story, Project Mornese, Salesian, Salesian Sisters, Valponasca

Day at Valponasca Mazzarello Home

Valponasca chapel: Samoan style Bible procession.

VALPONASCA, Mornese – The Project Mornese Sisters spent a day at the Valponasca home of the Mazzarellos, 19 June. Leaving the Mornese Collegio, the group walked down public road for about 45 minutes and climbed up the Valponasco vineyards, once cultivated by Maria Mazzarello and her family. On arriving at the well kept courtyard and home, Sisters gathered upstairs in the new hall above the chapel for input session on Maria Mazzarello’s life at the Valponasca farm. It was followed by a well prepared liturgy by Sisters of the Pacific and Australia. After the liturgy, the group had the experience of gusty winds which turned up from nowhere carrying away from their hands the plastic cups and plates distributed for lunch…
The story of the farm goes back to Maria’s paternal grandfather who rented the small farm “Valponasca”, owned by the marquis Giorgio Doria on February 10, 1827, for a period of 18 years. Domenico Mazzarello died at an early age leaving his property to his 4 sons; three of them were to share the house in “Mazzarelli di qua” with their families. Later, Giuseppe Mazzarello, Maria’s father, decided to go to live at the Valponasca. This probably took place in 1850, after extending the rental period of the house.

Sisters gather outside Valponasca home.

Maria lived her adolescent and youthful years in this house. She was like any other lively and intelligent girl of her time. Here at the Valponasca, the rhythm of her life changed. Until then, she had been the helpful support of her mother; now that her little sister Felicita had grown up, Maria could work with her father in the fields.
Work and prayer sustained her youth. In this new home, Maria found a place which became the strong point of her busy day while she worked in the fields and vineyards. In the little house of Valponasca there is a window on the southern side. From there, the Mornese parish church of St Sylvester is visible. Maria used to go to Mass every morning, but could not go back in the evening. Thus, she found a way of joining those who at that time were gathered together in the church for prayer. She would come here to this window.

Mornese Church seen from Maria's favourite window in the Valponasco Mazzarello home.

When her mother realized what Maria’ s evening escapes were about, she arranged it so that the whole family would gather by that window for their evening prayer. From here, where silence is broken only by the wind that blows in every direction, Maria had learned to live an intense spiritual life. She learned the real meaning of contemplation which, according Gospel, makes one responsible for one’s brothers and sisters. Here at the Valponasca, Maria nurtured her religious vocation and brought it to to maturity, even though she didn’t know how she could ever realise it.
The old Valponasca farm, where “Main” (as Maria was fondly called) lived the decisive years of her adolescence, had to belong to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, as a precious remembrance. The FMA acquired it on April 25, 1986. Care was taken to preserve the original structures as far as possible and while at the same time adapt it for the numerous pilgrims and groups who come here in prayer, in silence and reflection to discover the roots of a sound spirituality. The work of restoration was concluded in 1988.
Today, Sr Iva Bolsi at 82 years, drove a nine-seater Volkswagon Transporter from Mornese Collegio with ten Sisters of the Project Mornese to Vaponasco where she is the curator. She returned to pick up, if any, who could not complete the walk. Again she went down to Collegio to pick up lunch for 32 Sisters and made two more trips to bring home, the weary walkers.

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Cardinal Bagnasco’s Visit Cheers FMA Sisters

Card. Bagnasco addressing Project Mornese group.

MORNESE – The Project Mornese Sisters had a pleasant surprise with the visit of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of neighbouring diocese of Genoa. Card. Bagnasco is president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Italy. It was his first visit to Mornese Municpality, in Alessandria Province, to name a Traffic Circle in honour of his relative Alfio Lamanna, 18 June. Besides blessing the name board, the Cardinal also distributed Alfio Lamanna Scholarships to meritorious students of the academic years 2008 & 2009. He was accompanied by Mornese Mayor Mr. Mazzarello, a distant relative of St Maria Mazzarello.
On arrival at 3 pm, the cardinal received a rousing welcome and was greeted with a Mornese song. The group animator Sr Maire O’Byrne explained to the cardinal, about the first FMA institution and took him around the places connected with St Maria Mazzarello.

Cardinal prays in St Maria Mazzarello's room where she stayed between 1872 to 1879 while in Mornese.

After looking around the Collegio, the Cardinal stopped at the spot of the old chapel where St Maria Mazzarello and the first group of Salesian Sisters made their first profession.
Then he moved into the new Chapel accompanied by the Sisters as well as his police escort. The cardinal led the Sisters in prayer, briefly spoke to them and imparted his blessings for their renewal programme, and graciously requested for a song… The Sisters sang a Marin song in Italian.
Then he went upstairs to Maria Mazzarello’s room for a brief prayer. After a second round of farewell to 31 Sisters coming from three continents and ten countries, he wished good bye to the Sisters of the community and left for Valpanasco, the ancestral home of Maria Domenica Mazzarello.

The Collegio Mornese and the well today.

The Collegio is the first Mother-House of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. With the approval of Don Bosco, Fr. Pestarino, Maria Mazzarello’s parish priest built it as a boarding school for boys. The project was decided upon in 1864. Fr. Pestarino spoke of it in the church exhorting the people of Mornese to help in the construction of the four storey building. Later, Don Bosco decided that it would become the house of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. On May 23, 1872, they moved into the building.

Card Bagnasco with Salesian Sisters at Mornese

Upon entering the grounds of the Collegio, one can see the old arcades. The last 4 arches were once part of the first Chapel of the Collegio which Fr. Pestarino dedicated to our Lady of Sorrows. Here, on August 5, 1872 the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians was born. In the presence of the Bishop of Acqui, Don Bosco, Fr. Pestarino and other priests, 11 novices among whom Maria Mazzarello, made their religious profession. On that occasion, Don Bosco said : “Now, you are a part of a religious family that belongs to Mary. You are few, poor in means and deprived of human approval. Do not worry. Things will change very soon (…) I can assure you that the Institute will have a great future if you will remain simple, poor and mortified.” (Cronistoria dell” Istituto delle FMA).

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Filed under Alfio Lamanna, Cardinal Bagnasco, Collegio Mornese, Don Bosco, Don Pestarino, Maria Mazzarello, Preventive System, Salesian Sisters, School, Student, Teacher