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.
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.
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.