Maria was born in Mornese, Northen Italy, to a poor family who worked as day labourers. When she was fifteen she joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, run by her Parish Priest, Father Pestarino; it was a precursor to the founding of the Salesian Sisters.
The Daughters were known for their charitable works and Mary soon set herself apart for her sound judgement, dedication, joy and love of the young. Wherever she went the village children were drawn to her like a magnet, eager to hear her jokes and stories, or to ask her a question.
The Daughters took in a few young girls and housing and schooling them in the faith and handing down to them their knowledge of dress making. In
1867, after meeting with the daughters and receiving their enthusiastic response to his vision for young girls, Don Bosco drew up their first
rule of life. A source of the community’s good spirit, sense of humour, optimism and charity, Mary Mazzarello was a natural choice as
the first superior.
At thirty-five donned in a habit which she herself had designed. Mary was now Sister Mary Mazzarello. She and the fourteen other newly professed religious Sisters made up the fledgling order. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians was officially founded. As the feminine branch of the Salesian religious family, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians sought to do for girls what the Priests and Brothers were doing for boys in Turin.
Her dedication to her Sisters was not limited to their intellectual development alone. In every way she was an attentive mother, which is why to
this day she is fondly referred to as Mother Mazzarello by the Salesian Sisters. Maria died on 14th May 1881. She was beatified on 20 November
1938 and canonized on
24 June 1951.
Click here to find out more about St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello.