Sacred Heart Spir­i­tu­al­ity Center

Divine Prov­i­dence chose August 5, 1872 to be the day that a new reli­gious Insti­tute was begun in the Church. In Mor­nese, Alessan­dria, Italy, the coura­geous women who were to be the first Daugh­ters of Mary Help of Chris­tians gath­ered with Don Bosco and Msgr. Joseph Scian­dra, the Bishop of Acqui, to cel­e­brate their admis­sion to the novi­tiate and the first pro­fes­sions. On that happy day St. Maria Domenica Maz­zarello was also elected the first supe­rior and given the title of “vicar”.

Many tri­als, suf­fer­ings, and tests of their faith pre­ceded their pro­fes­sion. Many peo­ple doubted the good-​will and resolve of these young women, and many towns­peo­ple from Mor­nese were openly hos­tile to the group, which, in their eyes, had stolen the boys’ school. In fact, the bishop had decided against Don Bosco’s boys’ school, but was in favor of a girls’ school. So, the Daugh­ters of Mary Help of Chris­tians expe­ri­enced the rejec­tion that Jesus Him­self endured, when He was not wel­come in His own town and among His own peo­ple. Despite the lack of funds, helpers, under­stand­ing from the com­mu­nity, and resources, the first Sale­sian Sis­ters were known for their joy and cheer­ful­ness – a sure sign that the Holy Spirit was at work in their midst.

A year later their first board­ing school and pri­mary school was rec­og­nized by the edu­ca­tional author­i­ties of Castel­letto d’Orba. On Octo­ber 8, 1874, the Sale­sian Sis­ters were able to open their sec­ond house in Borgo San Mar­tino. They ran work­shops to edu­cate young women to help them to be self-​sufficient, and car­ried on the tra­di­tion of the Sale­sian Ora­tory (a place where young peo­ple could gather to enjoy them­selves, learn, and grow in their faith while being safe from harm). The work of the Sale­sians Sis­ters was not lim­ited to a school­room, for they made the whole world their school, seek­ing to bring the young to a deeper faith in God through an exam­ple of love, mercy, com­pas­sion, joy, and cheer­ful­ness. The love of the Sis­ters for the young was sin­cere and total and in most cases, it was mutual.

St. Mary Maz­zarello and her first com­pan­ions were able to pro­fess their per­pet­ual vows on August 28, 1875 in the pres­ence of Don Bosco, after study­ing with the Sis­ters of St. Anne for their reli­gious for­ma­tion. The fol­low­ing years brought many joys, great and small, to the Sale­sian Sis­ters. On their part, the Sis­ters were will­ing to endure much hard work, and often extreme sac­ri­fice – all with deep ded­i­ca­tion. For the next few years, the con­sti­tu­tions of the com­mu­nity would be ad exper­i­men­tum, and open to revi­sion, dis­cus­sion and con­sul­ta­tion. Even­u­ally, Don Bosco was able to give to the Daugh­ters of Mary Help of Chris­tians the first printed ver­sion of their Con­sti­tu­tions on the feast of the Immac­u­late Con­cep­tion, Decem­ber 8, 1878.

The young con­gre­ga­tion quickly spread beyond the bor­ders of Italy, tak­ing root in France and in the Amer­i­cas. The first house of the Daugth­ers of Mary Help of Chris­tians out­side of Italy was opened in 1877 in Nice, France. On Novem­ber 9thof the same year, Mother Maz­zarello and the first mis­sion­ar­ies were received in an audi­ence by Blessed Pope Pius IX, a great friend and sup­porter of Don Bosco. Five days later, the first mis­sion­ary Sis­ters departed for Uruguay, full of enthu­si­asm and zeal. Just three years later, in 1880, the sec­ond mis­sion­ary expe­di­tion of the Sale­sian Sis­ters to Patag­o­nia (Argentina) departed, as they fol­lowed their Sale­sian broth­ers who had pre­pared the way for their arrival.

Mother Maz­zarello took ill and died on May 14, 1881, at the age of 44. At the time of her death, the Insti­tute num­bered 26 houses and 166 Sis­ters but the death of St. Mary Maz­zarello did not spell the demise of the Sale­sian Sis­ters. In fact, Mother Maz­zarello her­self had said that the true supe­rior was Our Lady, who con­tin­ued to guide our Sis­ters, as she had guided Don Bosco and our Sale­sian Broth­ers for so long. After build­ing a mon­u­ment in stone to Our Lady Help of Chris­tians in Turin, Don Bosco had wanted our Insti­tute to be not a mon­u­ment of stone, but a liv­ing mon­u­ment of his grat­i­tude to Our Lady.

Mary Help of Chris­tians saw to it that her Insti­tute grew, and today we num­ber over 13,000 mem­bers in 94 dif­fer­ent coun­tries. Don Bosco once wrote, “My only desire is to see you happy both in this world and the next” and this hap­pi­ness is what the Sis­ters enjoy to this day, a fruit of their love for God and others.