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Dearest Sisters,

I come to you with joy to communicate the theme of the Feast of Gratitude that will make us feel in communion even more intensely with the whole Institute that is alive and working on the five Continents. It is always beautiful to remember that this feast is a typically Salesian tradition whose origins go back to 1849 when in the Oratory of Valdocco at Turin, the boys decided to celebrate Don Bosco’s name day with more solemnity. Two of them, although poor, put their money together and bought two silver hearts to give to their father and friend. It was an emotional day for everyone, but especially for Don Bosco who was surprised by the creativity and affection expressed by his little scamps (cf. BM III 534-535). Thus it became a beautiful custom, expected and prepared each year with joy and care.
The experience then passed to Mornese where mother Mazzarello, humble and reluctant to receive any attention to her person, learned from Don Bosco himself the educational significance of this celebration.
Today, the Feast of Gratitude for us and for the educating communities is a desired date in which we together express our thank you to the Lord for each sister, for the young people, for all those who share with us the educational mission.
Above all, we want to express our affection and gratitude to our Mother, bond of communion and center of unity (C 116), for her untiring self-giving, for being the sign of the Father’s love, a guide who directs the journey of the Institute with wisdom and courage.

This year, the feast will be celebrated on April 26,2019
in Bellflower, California

in Mary Immaculate Province in the United States.

The theme proposed by our sisters is taken from the words that that are at the base of the Statue of Liberty, symbol of the people of the United States:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”
(Emma Lazarus)

The United States of America was born from the fusion and encounter of many immigrant people who together gave life to a new civilization.

Immigration is a typical reality of our time and for us FMA, it is a challenge with strong educational values.  Through our mission we are called to increase in the young the culture of encounter, of interpersonal relationships, of acceptance respectful of the rights of all, and of human dignity, breaking down walls and building bridges.

In history there are sad pages that tell of the suffering of marginalization and elimination of the Native Americans, the only inhabitants before European colonization. Their suffering was followed by that of the thousands of people from Africa, captured and forced into slavery.

In this story, however, there are also bright pages that tell the welcome given to those who came from the South, from Mexico, from Central America, from Asia, and from Europe, escaping persecution and misery. They were looking for freedom and better life opportunities. Since the birth of this nation to today, millions of people have risked their lives crossing oceans, countries, borders, and bridges to get to the United States, despite facing political pressure, discrimination, and violence.

This is a Country where families from all over the world have found hospitality. Together, respecting cultural diversity, they have shaped this Nation. They have shown over time that a just and fraternal society is possible and can become the alternative to closing borders or building walls.

The slogan chosen for the Feast of Gratitude is:

“I entrust them to you.”

This echoes in our heart the entrustment made to Mary Domenica Mazzarello, a reminder to sow hope and trust in the hearts of people and the young, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Our sisters of Mary Immaculate Province (SUO) offer us this interpretation of the logo chosen for the feast:

Mary Help of Christians gathers all her children under her Mother’s mantle.

The image brings us back to the origins of our Institute, in a time of uncertainty for the future. Mary Domenica was walking along the road when she had a mysterious vision.  She saw a large building with many girls running in the courtyard, and she heard a voice say to her: “I entrust them to you”.  With these words, Mary entrusts to Maìn the mission of being a ‘helper’ like Her, especially among the young people (C 4).

  Mary’s presence is always vigilant and active even in our life.  She is the one who accompanies our journey, our mission, and continues to ‘walk’ in our houses infusing courage, sustaining fidelity and hope, to help us overcome weaknesses and difficulties.  She educates us to be ‘helpers’ who accompany the young to discover God’s plan for their life.

The Statue of Liberty. Historically this statue represents liberty in its broadest sense.  The seven points of the crown represent both the six continents and the seven oceans of the world.  At the base of the statue, not visible in the logo, is placed a broken chain and other chains that represent oppression and slavery.

Lady Liberty is a neo-classical sculptor in bronze that is found on Liberty Island, New York.  It was donated by France to the people of the United States.  Its complete name is: “The Liberty that illumines the world”.  It symbolizes the universal desire for human rights and is the first icon that the immigrants of the second half of the XIX century saw upon their arrival as they entered the port of New York.  This Symbol of Liberty welcomed people of every Nation searching for better opportunities for their families and also to live religious freedom.  As history attests, America is home for the peoples.  For two centuries, women, men, and children of the various Nations of the world have contributed to building this nation with the unrepeatable gift of their thought and humanity, with the traditions proper to their cultures, and with hard work.

Among these immigrants there were also four very young FMA who left for America on June 24, 1908.  Their voyage lasted three weeks before they were finally welcomed by the majestic figure of Lady Liberty.

The Bridge: Golden Gate Bridge. Many believe that the bridge derives its name from its color, but this is not true.  The name comes from the Golden Strait, that places the Pacific Ocean in communication with San Francisco Bay.  When the Army Commander, John C. Fremont, around the year 1846 saw it, he called it with its Greek name ‘Chrysopylae’ or ‘Golden Gate’ because it reminded him of the bridge over the Bosporus in what today is Istanbul, the so-called ‘Golden Horn’.  The color of the Golden Gate Bridge has an orange tonality called ‘international orange’ and symbolizes the connection between many peoples.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses indicates the journey of humanity:  The whole human race is journeying towards a better life, whether it regards a land or the interior journey to arrive at knowing God’s plan for one’s life.

The figure of the FMA, seen behind, recalls a characteristic of our mission, the accompaniment of the young people.

The people who walk alongside each other evoke the “tired and suffering masses” of the poem of Emma Lazarus that is placed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The globe of the earth represents missionary zeal, the call to bring the charity of Christ, the Good Shepherd to the whole world.  “The missionary dimension, an essential element of the identity of the Institute and the expression of its universality, has been part of our history since its very beginning” (C 75).

The following references are indicated for studying the theme:

* “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25: 40).

* “… that you may really clothe yourselves in the Spirit of our good Jesus, and so do great good to yourselves and to your dear neighbor who is so much in need of help” (Letter of Mother Mazzarello, 26. 4).

Our sisters of the United States Province of Mary Immaculate propose that we live the word of Jesus, so meaningful in today’s reality, where many of our sisters and brothers leave their lands in search of a better future.  We can commit ourselves:

  • To cultivate greater sensitivity for the situations of the world, educating ourselves and others to welcome the poorest and the weakest, who ask us to see reality through their struggles, their fears, and their dreams;
  • to express trust, respect, and appreciation for the unique treasure that every person is, and which we discover in the sisters of the community, in the young, and in every person we meet.

Every Feast of Gratitude is also characterized by a concrete expression of solidarity that makes the Family Spirit visible and helps us to broaden our vision on the world.  This year, the offerings that the various Provinces intend to collect, will be sent to the Economer General and will serve the urgent needs of the Institute and in particular, to help a new community planned by the two interprovincial conferences of CIMAC  and NAC at the border between Mexico and the USA, who will collaborate with other institutions to offer culture and formation to young migrants.

To Mary Immaculate, powerful Help, Mother and Teacher, the true Superior of our Institute, we entrust the life and mission of our Mother, whom we want to reach already with our choral gratitude and our grateful prayer.

I greet you in her name and that of the Council sisters.  Together we continue to pray for vocations, for peace, for all of humanity, and for our sisters who live in wounded lands, struck by war and violence, sharing the fears, sufferings, and hopes of many people.

With affection and gratitude.

Rome, 11 February 2019                                                           Sr. Chiara Cazzuola

Vicar General

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