Mother Antonia Colombo has left us for Heaven
Castelgandolfo (Italy). To the FMA, SDB, Salesian Family Groups, members of the Educating Communities of the whole world, we relay the communication of the passage to Heaven of our Dearest Mother Antonia Colombo. We are grateful for her life, precious in God’s eyes, precious for each FMA, for the lay people, and for the young, for each of us.
Here follows the official communication of Mother Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, with the profile of our Dearest Mother Antonia Colombo.
On the evening of July 1, 2019 in Mary Help of Christians House in St. Ambrogio Olona, Varese, the Lord of Life and of Beatitude introduced into the eternal Easter, our dearest Mother Antonia Colombo, Superior General Emerita. She was born in Lecco on April 12, 1935, professed at Contra di Missaglia (Lecco) on August 6, 1959, in Holy Family Province in Lombardy, Milan.
Mother Antonia was born into a family rich in affection, hard work, and faith. She had only one brother, six years older than her, whom the Lord called to Himself on November 1, 2018. The family lived in the same building where the father had his workshop and saddler shop. Her mother was a wise woman, of great love and firm faith. She always would say, “What the Lord asks of us is never too much”.
The peace of Lake Como and the starkness of the surrounding mountains, which Mother Antonia loved so much, contributed to shaping her sweet but strong temperament. Here were the roots of her equilibrium and rectitude that always distinguished her way of being and of acting.
She knew the FMA at the Lecco Oratory and was attracted by their educational style and by their joy. This is why she wanted to be enrolled in their middle school that had recently been opened in the city. Then she went to public school for her Classical degree, but continued to frequent the Oratory as an animator for the pre-teens. She enrolled at the Catholic University of Milan and, as she herself writes, she chose the Faculty of Law, “To become a lawyer and help the poorest people defend their rights as human beings. At that time, she thought that this professional choice would allow her to accomplish a social task at the service of the neediest people, especially the young who live in family contexts that are poor or morally at risk”.
The encounter with the Provincial, Sr. Margherita Sobbrero, helped her to give a response to her deep ideals. She asked her point blank, “Why don’t you come with us?”. For quite some time, Antonia had thought about it and now decided on the date for her entrance into the Institute. Her parents did not expect this choice and they suffered due to it. But their son, Aquilino, helped them to understand and consent to Antonia’s religious vocation.
On April 8, 1956 she arrived at the Aspirantate of Triuggio where she inserted herself into a group of young women who like her desired to follow Jesus by dedicating themselves to the education of girls. The Assistant, Sr. Orsolina Ardissione, who was the collaborator of Fr. Ferdinando Maccono, opened to her the vast horizons of our religious Family and led her to love Mother Mazzarello. She lived the period of Postulancy in Milan, Via Bonvesin, as she continued to study, take her exams at the University, and write her thesis.
After the novitiate at Contra di Missaglia, she made her religious profession on August 6, 1959 and in the same year she graduated in Law. She then taught Law for one year at the International Institute of Pedagogy and Religious Sciences. From 1960 to 1963, she then studied Applied Psychology at the Catholic University at the Leuven in Belgium graduating in 1963. From that year until 1989, she was a professor and then the Principal of the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences at the Auxilium, first in Turin and then in Rome. Her keen intelligence and her cultural and spiritual richness contributed to the development of our Faculty and above all, the deepened study of the education of the woman and the Marian face of the Institute. With Mary, in the Church and in the actual world, woman is called to promote the culture of life.
In 1989, she was nominated Provincial of the Southern Province of Sr. Teresa Valsé Pantellini (IME) headquartered in Taranto. The following year, at General Chapter XIX, she was elected as a General Visiting Councilor and in the next General Chapter XX in 1996 she was elected as the Superior General of the Institute and then re-elected for a second six-year term in 2002.
In her magisterium, with clarity and evangelical paresis, she particularly emphasized the culture of life and the promotion of the young woman in her dignity. In her animation, Mother Antonia fostered a commitment to active citizenship and promoted a circular mode of animation as a condition for valuing the resources of each person and as a witness of communion. She encouraged the educating communities to be laboratories of life and reciprocity through educational relationships. She supported the importance of educating to the value of solidarity to help build human coexistence under the sign of a civilization of love and peace rooted in the values ??of the Gospel. She witnessed the radical nature of following Jesus as the center of her life, the source of the serenity that radiated around her, and of the fruitfulness of her mission in the Institute.
Humanizing culture and relationships in the light of the message of Jesus and the Salesian charism was not a slogan for Mother Antonia, but rather a precise commitment that identifies her mission as Mother and formative guide. Her guidelines for animation and government that emerged in the monthly circulars, are clear and lead to the deepening of the documents of the universal Church and the reading of the current context, aware that in a globalized and interdependent society every choice has global resonances.
After completing her service at the Institute's central level in 2008, her health collapsed and she remained in the Generalate for about a year. She underwent surgery and, after the necessary treatment, was appointed Animator of Mother Ersilia Canta House in Rome. At the end of the three-year term, she again went to the Generalate because of her precarious health, which required other surgical procedures because the tumor had spread. She entered the community as a humble sister, grateful for every small gesture of attention done for her; dependent in everything, but not passively submissive; free and forthright, as she had sought to teach to the FMA of the world.
She collaborated in revising the biographical profiles of the deceased sisters, willingly devoted herself to reading and intensified prayer. It had become "all prayer", not only because she spent long periods of time in front of the Lord in the tribune of the chapel, but because of her luminous gaze that went beyond, where dialogue with God does not undergo variations and is always more intense and deeper. She also invited us to pray with her with her favorite prayer: “I want what you want ... as you want it, when you want it, and because you want it”.
In her first Circular at the beginning of her mandate, Mother Antonia wrote: "I enter every community with trepidation and joy" (n. 785). On tiptoe and in silent love she ended her mission, giving those who met her the witness of a happy Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, in serene adherence to God's plan.
In recent years at the rest home of Sant'Ambrogio Olona (Varese), she experienced the purification and the stripping of the disease that deprived her of her memory, but not of the subtlety of relationships, of her luminous smile, of her delicate attention to people, and the expressions of gratitude that blossomed spontaneously on her lips, a sign of a heart full of peace and inhabited by the presence of God.
In the evening of July 1, 2019, Mother Antonia reached her goal and now we can think of her happy in God’s joy forever.
Let us remember that verse of the liturgy which she had made her own and which always accompanied her: "May I know you intimately, O Christ! And, as your companion in the passion, may I rise again with you! ".
Sr. Yvonne Reungoat, Superior General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
The funeral will be celebrated on July 3, in Milan at St. Augustine Salesian Parish Church, at twelve noon. The body will be interred in the cemetery of Nizza Monferrato.
N.B. You can leave your remembrance or a testimony in the comments…