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.
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 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.
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).