In the early 1870s, when the Salesian Society was going through a happy time of expansion beyond the borders of Piedmont, thanks also to the many vocations flowing in, Don Bosco, with a group of Daughters of Mary Immaculate at Mornese who were gathered around Mary Domenica Mazzarello (1837-1881), gave life to the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. In a very short time it was approved by the Diocesan Ordinary and aggregated to the Salesian society, then spread throughout Italy and overseas. We publish here five documents on this women’s foundation.
First of all the request to the Superior of the Sisters of St Anne, Mother Enrichetta Dominici, on adapting the Constitutions of the Society of St Francis de Sales to the new Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (no. 44).
Secondly the minutes of the first eleven triennial religious professions and the first five clothing ceremonies (four, according to other copies of the minutes), which in some ways was the founding act for the Institute itself (no. 45). Signed by the diocesan authorities, it lacks Don Bosco’s signature (he was at the professions, but not when the minutes of the ceremony were compiled), but he would make two corrections on another copy of the document.
Then follows a circular to parish priests in which Don Bosco presents the purpose of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, and sends the programme of the school at Mornese (no. 46).
The document most important for its consequences is perhaps the petition to the Bishop of Acqui, Bishop Joseph Mary Sciandra, for diocesan approval of the FMA Institute after possible corrections of the Constitutions (no. 47).
Then having obtained the decree of approval, and given that the Salesian Sisters had now spread throughout Italy, France and America, Don Bosco send them the printed text of their Constitutions with some particular recommendations of his (no. 48).
Perhaps his painful experience in gaining pontifical approval for the Salesian Society and its Constitutions had dissuaded Don Bosco from running the same risk for the women’s Institute. He simply aggregated it to the Salesians, a rather rare thing, and this did not escape the attention of pontifical authorities in his 1879 Report (see no. 24) and would later be re-examined.
On relationships between Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello and their cooperation in founding the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, see the bibliography in the note. For pedagogical and spiritual aspects go to the second and third parts respectively of this volume.
Reference time period: 1871 – 1878
Salesian Historical Institute, Salesian Sources 1: Don Bosco and his work. Collected Works, LAS – Kristu Jyoti, Rome – Bangalore, 2017, 171-183.
Istituto Storico Salesiano