140TH Salesian Missionary Expedition
Turin-Valdocco (Italy). On September 24, 2017, in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin-Valdocco, the 13 FMA new missionaries received the missionary crucifix from Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. The Rector Major, Ángel Fernández Artime, presided at the Eucharistic Celebration with the participation of many young people gathered for the Harambèe and groups of the Salesian Family. The introduction recalled the 140th anniversary of the First FMA Missionary Expedition to America and the words of Don Bosco, “Desire nothing else but to gain souls for God”.
In his homily, the Rector Major recounted “his visit to the Port of Genoa, of the emotion he felt in seeing the place from where the first sisters departed, the affection and the faith of that missionary departure that is still repeated today thanks to the generosity of FMA, SDB, young people, and laity of the Salesian Family. And today, the Lord asks everyone to work in His vineyard. He then recalled the experience of Fr. Tom, Indian missionary in Yemen, of his courage, of his faith during the long days of his imprisonment. He is truly an icon of the missionary spirit. Giving one’s life is the most beautiful mission. The missionary does not go to teach but only to transmit Jesus and the Good News. Faith, life witness is essential in the most distant and poorest places”.
After a formative, charismatic-missionary journey to Mornese, Nizza, and Turin, the new missionaries lived this time of grace with joy and trust, together with the 21 new missionaries and a group of young volunteers.
The time of preparation at Mornese and Nizza were lived in the horizon of the 140th anniversary of the First FMA Missionary Expedition. At Mornese, the FMA reflected on the missionary spirit of Mother Mazzarello and the first six missionaries ad gentes. They let themselves be questioned by the places of origin, renewing an ever more open gaze without confines, turned to all peoples and cultures of every time. With Mother Mazzarello, they repeated their yes to life, to faith, to the FMA vocation. What prompted the first six sisters to leave for Uruguay on November 14, 1877 was the desire to make Jesus known and loved: da mihi animas cetera tolle, assimilated and incarnated in their daily life!
That ‘I entrust them to you!’ arouses in each one the desire to respond even more, with conviction and openness of heart “Here I am. Send me!”
On one of the days at Mornese, the new missionaries were able to meet with the Rector Major, present with a group of Provincials for a time of formation. Together, they shared the Eucharist and Fr. Angel made them feel his closeness and paternity. Then they met with the SDB new missionaries present in Mornese to visit the places of Mother Mazzarello and ‘breathe’ the spirit of Mornese.
At Nizza, they visited Our Lady of Grace House and personally touched the beautiful secret of the expansion of the Institute with a pause at the cemetery of Nizza to visit the tomb of Sr. Angela Vallese, guide of the first Missionary Expedition. In Turin, they learned more of the life and holiness of Don Bosco. In the places of the Founder, the confirmation of Don Bosco’s missionary heart became promise and certainty of salvation for all the young of all cultures and of all times.
On September 22-24, the new FMA missionaries – accompanied by the Councilor for the Missions, Sr. Alaide Deretti, and the new SDB missionaries – accompanied by the Councilor Fr. Guillermo Basañes, lived a special triduum in preparation for the reception of the missionary crucifix.
On the 22nd, they celebrated the Eucharist and Vespers together in St. Francis di Sales Church. On the 23rd, they celebrated the Eucharist together in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, entrusting to Don Bosco’s Madonna fidelity to the missionary vocation ad gentes. They shared a time of fraternity and in small groups, their motivations for responding to the missionary ad gentes call. In the afternoon, they participated in the Harambèe, a time of festivity, encounter, and prayer with the new SDB missionaries and the young volunteers. During the Prayer Vigil in the Basilica, the departure of many missionaries in the history of the two Congregations was recalled.
In the chapel where the remains of Mother Mazzarello are kept, the FMA were able to recall the 140th anniversary of the First Missionary Expedition, evoking the model of life, of total donation of the first sisters and the blessing for the 140th Missionary Expedition.
On Sunday, September 24th, the day dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, there was the traditional and solemn Eucharistic Celebration of missionary sending. The sisters felt a moment of great emotion with the presence of Mother Yvonne Reungoat, the closeness and affection of the whole Institute, the joy of their Provinces, that in this 140th year made a gift to the Institute of missionaries ad gentes.
Upon their return to Rome, the new missionaries will be involved in the preparation for the mission ad gentes. They will continue to learn Italian, frequent the Annual Course of Missionary Formation at the Urbanum Pontifical University, participate in the life of the Church, of the Institute, and of the community of the Generalate, and make an apostolic experience with the neediest brothers and sisters and migrants.