MORNESE – The project Mornese group spent the afternoon (16 June) in Maria Mazzarello’s parish church. Over 400 years old, the church was the scene of her life and activities. The visiting Sisters had opportunity to hold a ceremony to renew their baptismal vows at the same baptismal font where Maria Domenica was baptized, and received other sacraments of confession, communion and confirmation.
Situated at the center of Mornese town is the Church of Saint Sylvester (estd. 1602). From 1812 on, the building was subjected to a series of improvements that made it one of the most beautiful churches in the territory. In its underground, where there are evident traces of the foundation of the ancient Castellazzo and of the first oratory, a permanent “Christmas Crib” was constructed in 1995 by a group of volunteers from Mornese.
Maria Domenica was born on May 9, 1837, in Mornese (Alessandria). In this Church, Maria affectionately called Main, was baptized at the stone baptismal font over which there is a picture of John the Baptist. In this Church, she attentively followed the catechism lessons of Fr. Pestarino and his Sunday homilies which, according to the customs of the time, were given from the high pulpit dominating the entire congregation. In this Church, Main made her first Confession and her first Communion (1847), and Confirmation (1849).
When her uncle’s family caught typhoid, Fr. Pestarino had asked Maria’s father to allow her to help out her sick relatives at the Mazzarelli. Though he was opposed to the idea, he left Main free to make her own choice. She did so telling Fr. Pestarino: “If you want me to do so I’ll go, but I’m sure I’ll catch the disease.” Here, after assisting her sick uncles, Main caught typhoid fever. It was a long and serious illness at the age of 23 (1860), when she could finally move about, she went to the back of the church, huddled in the darkest corner and said: “Lord, if you grant me a few more years of life, allow me to be forgotten by all. I am happy to be remembered only by you.”
The experience of her own physical fragility, on the one hand, deepened her abandonment to God and, on the other, encouraged her to open a sewing school to educate the girls in work, prayer and love of God. Thanks to her intense sacramental life, and under the wise guidance of Fr. Pestarino, she made great progress in the spiritual life.
On the occasion of Don Bosco’s visit to Mornese (10 August 1864) she said: “Don Bosco is a saint and I feel it”.
In 1872 Don Bosco chose her to begin the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Salesian Sisters). She proved a capable formator and teacher of spiritual life. She was cheerful and serene, and spread peace wherever she went. She radiated joy and involved other young people in her dedication to the education of women. She died in Nizza Monferrato on May 14, 1881. Her remains are venerated in the Basilica of Mary Our Help in Turin. Her feast is
celebrated on May 13.
Thursday, 17 June, the group will spent the day at Valpanasco village home where Main lived her first 21 years of life.