The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
(Also Known as Salesian Sisters)
A Religious Family that belongs to Mary
The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians is a religious family born of the great heart of Don Bosco and of the creative fidelity of St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello.
The story begins with a twice repeated dream of Don Bosco. He dreamt he was crossing Piazza Vittorio inTorino,Italy. The Piazza was filled with noisy, screaming girls who appeared to have no one to look after them. A few were in a group apart and were not playing. These came over to the saint and said: ” As you see, we have been neglected”. Immediately a gracious lady appeared who encouraged him to work for these girls. As she diasppeared into their midst she repeated: “Care for them, they are my children”.
In 1864 with a band leading his group of boys, Don Bosco went to Mornese in the diocese of Acqui and was received royally. According to his custom when inTorino, each evening he gave a little talk to the people of Mornese before bidding them ‘goodnight’. Among the group was one young woman who listened avidly to his words. This woman was Maria Domenica Mazzarello who was then 27 years of age.
Was she a dreamer too? Some years before and not knowing at all the work Don Bosco had begun for boys inTorino, she had seen on an elevation at Borgo Alto in Mornese, a large building with spacious courtyards. Many girls were playing in these courtyards and she heard a voice say to her: “I entrust them to you”. Years later this building and spacious grounds became a reality. The four-story building was constructed by the townsfolk of Mornese and became the first school and boarding facilities for girls adminstered by the Salesian Sisters.
Unbeknown to each other, Don Bosco inTorinoand Maria Mazzarello in Mornese were working for the good of young people particularly those most in need. They first met in 1864 and throughout the next eight years shared their educational ideals till finally in 1872 they founded the congregation of the Salesian Sisters, officially known as the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Both cherished a great devotion to Mary and therefore named the new congregation after her. From 1872 to 1881,year of the death of Maria Mazzarello,the first group of Salesian Sisters spread throughoutItaly,Franceand to overseas missions inSouth America. Maria Mazzarello’s passion for young people can be summed up in the words of her closest friend, Petronilla Mazzarello (no relation). Petronilla attests that Maria “attracted the young like an iron does to a magnet”. It is this passion that has attracted many other women to journey with young people from one generation to the next.
The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians is a family of religious women born of St. John Bosco and St. Maria Mazzarello’s love for God and young people.
It follows the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales in three key aspects of his spirituality:
An optimistic humanism
The universal call to holiness for everyone
A union with God based on gentleness and kindness in everyday life.
Its story began in 1872 at Mornese (a village in northernItaly) where Maria Mazzarello worked in her parish for the good of the young. In 1864 Don Bosco met Maria Mazzarello and these two people realized that they were both working for the good of the young in their respective places – Don Bosco inTurinand Maria Mazzarello in Mornese. By 1872 the religious congregation of women was formed through its founders, Maria Mazzarello and Don Bosco. Over the past 130 years since its foundation the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians has spread to the five continents and now numbers around 13,000 members in over 90 countries.
In the Church the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians brings God to young people through the field of education in a wide variety of activities: schools, camps, hostels, retreat work, youth clubs.
Its educational philosophy is based on what the Salesians call the Preventive System – an educational approach based on: