Tag Archives: Project Mornese

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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Project Mornese Sisters Visit Mother Marinella

Nizza shrine: Our Lady's statue gifted by Don Bosco

NIZZA-MONFERRATO, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – About 90 minutes of drive, mostly on tortuous road from Mornese is Nizza Monferrato, the first headquarters of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA) from 1879 for about 50 years before they moved to Turin and then to Rome. Don Bosco visiting Mornese met Maria Domenica Mazzarello in 1864 and was pleasantly struck by the girl. It was the same Don Bosco, who on 5 August 1872, chose her as initiator of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in the same year and took the vows, along with her 10 companions.
In 1879, the FMA governance was transferred from Mornese to Nizza Monferrato and Maria Mazzarello died there on 14 May 1881 at the age of 44 years. During these two years she made 44 visits to her 22 houses in Italy and France. At her death, the FMA already counted 165 nuns and 65 novices in 28 houses ((19 in Italy, 3 in France and 6 in America). She was canonized in 1951 and her liturgical feast is celebrated on May 13.

Sisters in prayer at Maria Mazzarello's room

The FMA institution enshrines the sanctuary of Lady of Graces. An FMA authority on the history of the shrine Sr Eugenia Meardi FMA took the group on a guided tour of the sprawling campus of the first major FMA Institution which runs a primary as well as a high school.
Starting from the shrine of Our Lady of Graces they visited Mother Mazzarello’s room on the first floor of the old Franciscan monastery, the vineyard, the Church of the Sacred Heart and the place of memories. The morning concluded with Eucharistic celebration in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace which houses the paper maches statue of Our Lady Don Bosco gifted to Mother Mazzarello. It was here in 1885 that Don Bosco saw Our Lady walking about the institution and protecting it under Her mantle.

St. Maria Mazzarello's room today

After lunch, the group had prayer at Mother Mazzarello’s room which measures just 15 feet by 8 feet. It is a typical cell of the Franciscans who had earlier occupied it. Her writing table is in tact. The floor still has tiles from Maria Mazzarello’s day. She as well as other Sisters used to have two beds in each room to accommodate large number of Sisters in the community.

Madre Marinella addresses Sisters in English

The next stop was at Casa San Giuseppe, a few kilometers away. It was an international novitiate which prepared FMA for several missionary expeditions. Today it houses some 45 senior Sisters among them Madre Marinella Castagno (92 years old) 7th successor of Maria Mazzarello. She was superior general for 12 years (1984-1996). Earlier she was a member of FMA General Council in 1973 making the canonical visits in various provinces. From 1975 until 1984 she was responsible for youth ministry, a role which gave her an insight into the different educational and pastoral situations in the Institute. The project Mornese was her brain child. She was out at the entrance of the institution hale and hearty to greet everyone in fluent English. She recalled several Sisters in the group by their name. Later, she addressed the group in the chapel. After a brief prayer together, Madre Marinella joined the visitors for refreshments and gelato (ice cream).
From there the group proceeded to the Nizza cemetery where the General Councilors who died in Nizza are buried in the crypt of the FMA Enclave.
29 June, the group leaves Mornese early morning for Rome with a brief stop over at Pisa.

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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

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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Sisters Renewal Programme Animators Awed by Group Enthusiasm

L to R: Sr Edna and Sr Maire at Project Mornese.

MORNESE, N. Italy, (C.M. Paul) — The two animators of 29 member Project Mornese English (PME) speaking group say they are overwhelmed accompanying the groups each time. While for Irish Sr Maire O’Byrne it is the 10th time accompanying PME, for U.S. born Sister Edna Mary Mac Donald former provincial of Australian province it is the 5th time.
“I have always found the experience very life giving for myself, as well as for the group. I feel it is a privilege to be able to accompany my Sisters in this experience, especially those who would not otherwise have an opportunity to visit the places of our Founders,” says Sr O’Byrne, 44 years a Salesian Sister.
“Those coming to Italy for the first time are in awe as they come into personal contact with the places and centre of the Catholic Church and of our charism,” says Sr Mac Donald who discontinued accompanying PME group on appointment as Salesian Sisters provincial of Australian province.

Sr Edna and Sr Maire Tending the flame!

“These Sisters return to their provinces with a renewed sense of purpose regarding the Church, our congregation and are re-energised in their personal call to continue to deepen their own human, Christian and religious journey,” adds Sr Mac Donald.
“Accompanying each group, I come away in awe at the journey each Sister is wholeheartedly willing to continue and to pass on to others what is truly life-giving,” explains Sr Mac Donald who served two terms on AMOR (Asia/Oceania meeting of Religious) Executive.
An exhilarating moment in accompanying the group is “to see the wonder and amazement on the Sisters’ faces when they actually come in contact with sacred places in Rome, Turin and Mornese,” says Sr Mac Donald who holds a PhD degree in education from the University of South Australia.
She spells out major group experiences as “depth of prayer in the group, a sense of profound gratitude for the privilege of the pilgrimage and being blessed to walk with others along the journey of life.”

Project Mornese Sisters Maire, Rosalia, Lucy & Edna

“The PME methodology is experiential and allows for the true sense of pilgrimage to be actualized maximising the possibility for growth and change to occur in each Sister at her own pace,” says Sr. Mac Donald who had her religious training in the U.S. and Italy before moving to Australia as a young religious. She has worked for over 40 years in education and is involved in the initial religious formation program of FMA South Pacific Region province.
Sr Byrne adds, “ One of the most important aspects [of PM] is that it is designed for every Sister not just a privileged few. It is also very valuable because [it] is based on experience and gives time for personal reflection and going in depth.”
The PM gives Salesian Sisters worldwide opportunity to re-vitalize their Christian, religious and Salesian charism. The month-long course is offered each year in five languages (Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese and French) through a progressive pilgrimage in three places connected with their charism – Rome, Turin and Mornese.

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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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