Saint Maria Domenica Mazzarello (1837-1881)
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
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.
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