The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA) Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco
The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians was founded on 5th August 1872 at Mornese in Italy by St. John Bosco and St. Maria Mazzarello. The Sisters who lived with Maria Mazzarello had learnt from her to live for God alone. Groups of young missionaries went out to foreign lands year after year and a group of six Sisters came to Bombay (by sea) and proceeded to Tanjore – Madras, India to begin the youth work in our mother land on 22nd November 1922.
John Bosco was born on 16 August 1815 in a village called Becchi, Italy. His father died when he was only a child. At the age of 9, little Johnny had a mysterious dream in which he saw wolves fighting and later turn into lambs. He was promised a teacher who was none other than our Blessed Mother, Mary who told him, “Be strong and robust, not with blows but with loving kindness.” He eventually placed his whole life under her guidance and honoured her with the title of “Help of Christians”.
To pursue his dream of becoming a priest, he had to leave home at the age of 12, stay at someone’s farm as farm hand and learn various trades and support his education. He used to work all day to earn his keep and would spend his nights studying what he needed to learn so as to be able to enter the seminary to become a priest. With great difficulty, Johnny Bosco became a priest and dedicated himself entirely to help young people and started to gather the boys together on Sundays, sometimes in a Church, in vacant plots, or even in open public spaces where they could play and where he could teach them about their faith. His famous quote: “It is enough for me that you are young, to love you”. Every child he met felt as if he was especially loved by him. Exhausted by his tireless work, he fell seriously ill. He died on 31 January, 1888, at the age of 72. On Easter Sunday, 1 April 1934, Pope Pius XI, who had the good fortune of knowing him personally, proclaimed him a Saint.
St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello was born in Mornese, Italy on May 9, 1837. She was the eldest of seven children healthy and strong in nature and a hard worker in her Father’s vineyard.
When she was fifteen, she joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, run by her parish priest, Fr. Pestarino.
When Mary was 23, a typhoid epidemic hit Mornese and many families were ill or lost their loved ones. Soon her uncle’s entire family was sick. Fr. Pestarino turned to Joseph Mazzarello and his family for Mary’s help. Although Mary had the intuition that she would contract typhoid, she agreed to care for her aunt and uncle and their many children. Mary did contract the sickness and was on death bed. God saved her life but she was left weak and feeble and could do no work in the field. She wanted to know what God wanted from her. One day she saw a vision. She saw buildings and children playing. She heard a voice, “I entrust them to you”. This revived her spirit.
Soon she began to learn tailoring with her close friend, Petronilla. They began to gather in a small workshop and get work. They took in a few orphaned girls and housed them, teaching them dress-making and handing down to them the knowledge of their faith. Don Bosco during his visit to Mornese met the members of the association and he found in them a ready-made group to continue his mission for the girls. On 5th August 1872 Don Bosco consecrated fourteen of them as Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. She lived a very simple life. The youngsters with difficult character were transformed by her loving and gentle ways of handling them. She could read their hearts and went out of her way to show her understanding and love. She was a wise woman who knew how to respond to people and situations and left a mark in all those whom she met.
She died at the age of forty-four. She was beatified on November 20, 1938 and canonized on June 24, 1951 by Pope Pius XII. Mary Mazzarello’s life of utter devotion to the will of God and love for others continues to serve as an example of dedication and holiness.
Salesian Sisters today work in all the continents of the world and number 13,653, highest number among religious women. In India alone we have grown into 7 provinces with 1272 Sisters. The Mumbai province comprises of the states of Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra with 204 Sisters working in 33 houses and 2 presences reaching out to the poor and young women and children through education and evangelization in cities and villages. The mission varies from schools, boardings, hostels, community colleges, vocational training centers, catechesis, evangelization in the villages and social outreach empowering the young and women in varied contexts. The ministry is youth-centered. Many Sisters are involved in youth clubs.
We believe in the young and their potential for the future and we believe in women, icons of strength and of resilience. We educate the young and the women, looking with hope toward a future that is more equitable, more sustainable, more ecological, which has its roots in the faith and values of Christian humanism.
On 5th August 2022 we celebrate 150 years of the foundation of our Institute. We recall with nostalgia the passion our founders had for the young. They used reason, religion and loving kindness in order to make the young realize God’s plan in their lives and chose the path that led to life. As we journey onwards in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual context, our Charism challenges us to make decisive choices for the good of the young, to venture into new areas recalling Don Bosco’s words, “It is enough for me that you are young, to love you”.