Mazzarello, Maria Domenica, St.

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Cofoundress of the salesian sisters; b. Marnese (Piedmont), Italy, May 9, 1837; d. Nizza Monferrato, May 14, 1881. Maria's parents, Giuseppe and Maddelena (Calcagno) Mazzarello, were farmers, and she worked in the fields and vineyards as a young girl. As a member of a local sodality, the Pious Union of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, she followed a regular rule of life and taught catechism. An attack of typhoid in 1860 caused her to give up heavy field labor and to work at dressmaking. Soon she was instructing girls in the trade. The sodality impressed St. John bosco during a visit to the village (1865). When his scheme for a boys' school at Marnese failed, he installed Mazzarello and her companions in the building. The Daughters of Our Lady Help of Christians, or Salesian Sisters, originated when Mazzarello, with ten companions, received the habit and pronounced first vows (Aug. 5, 1872). She was the first superior general of the congregation, whose rule was written by Bosco. The congregation's work was the education of poor girls, following the same methods and principles as the Salesian Fathers. In 1878 Mazzarello sent the first missionary sisters to Argentina. She moved in 1879 to the new moth-erhouse at Nizza Monferrato. By the time of her death the Salesian Sisters had opened more than 30 houses in Italy, France, and Latin America, and had 250 members. Mazzarello was beatified Nov. 20, 1938, and canonized June 24, 1951.

Feast: May 14.

Bibliography: h. l. hughes, Maria Mazzarello: Life and Times (London 1933). f. maccono, Suor Maria Mazzarello prima superiora generale delle Figlie dei Marie Ausiliatrice (4th ed. Turin 1960). a. de lima, A Santa Salesiana Maria Domingas Mazzarello (Belo Horizonte 1971). l. cÀstano, Madre Mazzarello: santa e confondatrice delle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice (Turin 1981). p. lappin, Halfway to Heaven (New Rochelle, N.Y. 1981). d. agasso, St. Mary Mazzarello: The Spirit of Joy, tr. l. passero (Boston 1996). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 44 (1952) 553565. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. att-water, 4 v. (New York 1956) 2:313314.

[t. p. joyce]