On 5th August 2022, the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians celebrate the 150th anniversary of the inauguration! It is hard to believe that only 150 years have passed since St Maria Mazzarello took that great leap of faith; one that has grown to over 11,000 Salesian sisters worldwide!

The past three years have been years of preparation, each following its own theme. 2021’s theme was “Plan the future boldly: “Courage! Let us go ahead with a great and generous heart”, advantageously chosen to guide the 24th general chapter of the institute, which took place from the 17th of September, through to October 24, 2021.

Two days before the closing ceremony the chapter was joined by a most unexpected guest; Pope Francis (once again revealing his great love for the Salesian family!) surprised all present with a visit, joining them in their preparations. He was welcomed with thunderous applause and appreciative of the centrality of Mary in the chapter reflections. Francis invited those gathered to operate as Mary: “Our Lady never retains anything for herself, but always points to Jesus.”

Pope Francis addresses the members of the 24th general chapter.

Francis lauded the service carried out by the FMA throughout the world, especially in the current multicultural and multi-religious social context of today even more marked due to the pandemic and invited the chapter to seize the occasion as ‘an opportunity for renewal, for vocational and missional revitalization.’ “Do not forget the grace of the origins, the humility, and smallness of the beginnings that made God’s action transparent in the life and message of those who, filled with amazement, began this journey. Mary Help of Christians will guide you: you are her daughters!”

The Popes invitation is a call to live these last few months before August 5 in preparation, as a special time of grace. Mother Mazzarello with her simplicity and depth would tell us: “Now is the time to rekindle the fire” (L 27,8).

Newly elected Mother Chiara Cazzuola thanked Pope Francis, saying “The encounter with you today, Holy Father, is for us, for our Chapter, an invitation to have more vital strength, more enthusiasm, more evangelical courage in living the mandate that the Church entrusts to us.”

Pope Francis is gifted an ornate set of Rosary Beads to mark the occasion.

She also added “We are an Institute that belongs entirely to Mary, therefore “courage”, as Mother Mazzarello would say in doing and in prayer. Let us go forward with enthusiasm on the path suggested by the Spirit, with a free and open heart accepting His solicitations, with a compassionate, attentive eye that recognizes the needs and urgencies of a world in constant suffering. Let us go alongside young people, the most exposed and delicate part of society, but they who always have our favour.