Don Bosco

Study of pedagogy and educational practice in the formation programs of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians since the death of St. John Bosco in 1950

Study of pedagogy and educational practice in the formation programs of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians since the death of St. John Bosco in 1950

Rachele Lanfranchi, FMA

1. Nature, sources, purpose, limits of this contribution

Nature . This contribution is historical in nature and relates to a specific area: that of the history of pedagogy and education.
In fact, it is a matter of investigating whether and how in the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA) [1] the problem arises about the preparation of the sisters for the educational task; what is the evolution of sensitivity towards pedagogical and educational preparation; if and where the study of pedagogy appears; which subsidies and practical methodological lines you propose, etc.
This is a series of questions that we try to answer by investigating a variety of sources.
Sources. Priority is given to those published, official, at the central level of the FMA Institute, in particular the Regulations. However, to understand the genesis and realization of them it is necessary to refer to more than one source such as: Constitutions , Deliberations of the General Chapters , Circulars of the Mother General and of the School Councilor, Conferences , Diaries , but also to some unpublished sources preserved in the Salesian Central Archive and in that of the FMA (AGFMA).
We are aware of having made a choice for which these sources, in themselves, are not exhaustive, but seem essential for the labor economy.
Purpose. The intent is to probe and document with what awareness the FMA Institute, wanted by St. John Bosco for the Christian education of young people from the popular class, has taken on and fulfilled the educational task for which it was born.
Limits . The research is inserted in a precise chronological time: from the death of Saint John Bosco (1888) until 1950. A sufficient time to explain the evolution of mentality, attitudes, achievements with which the FMA took on the educational task, even in relation to the needs set by the various institutions with which the Institute enters into dialogue. Furthermore, the 1950s are a watershed between before and after Vatican II.
In addition to the chronological limits there are those inherent to each research, which can never be said to be exhaustive, because one cannot be sure of having examined all the sources and, among these, the most significant ones.
Furthermore, the contribution is partial because it does not pose a series of questions, already dealt with in other contributions, which must be kept in mind in order to have a sufficiently complete picture of the reality being investigated. See, in particular, the contributions of Grazia Loparco and Piera Ruffinatto.

2. More practice than theory

Today the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians are mostly known as women of action, immersed in the daily work of education and training of young people. This imprint goes back to the origins of the Institute formed by young women who, under the guidance of Maria Domenica Mazzarello, dedicate themselves to the education of the girls of the popular class. They are very young nuns, coming from peasant backgrounds, rich in practical sense and good will than in culture, so it is not surprising that some, a bit rough, in front of a sister with a gentle and noble trait, ridicule behavior. Training in religious life is rapid because it requires personnel to respond to the many requests to open and manage kindergartens, oratories, laboratories, elementary and evening schools, other activities.[2] Fr Ricaldone, speaking to the Superior General and the Provincials gathered in 1932 for spiritual exercises, also says: "Now it seems to me that you have to think of something that you lack. You, for the formation of the sisters, have only the six-month postulate and then the novitiate. [...] after two years the [nun] sent to the houses to disengage an office. Are you convinced that these sisters so formed are apt to represent the Congregation worthily? ... Experience says no. [...] If intellectual, technical, religious and moral formation is lacking, the future of the Congregation will be seriously compromised; remember that the number can constitute a very serious danger; take care of quality rather than quantity ". [3]
In the first years of the Institute's life the problem of the study of pedagogy does not arise because what matters is the observance of the Constitutions in the certainty that in this way one is faithful to Don Bosco and his spirit. Moreover, the reference to the Founder, the comparison with the Salesians is a practice. The problem will arise later after 1878, when the FMA from Mornese moved to Nizza Monferrato, which became a training center for all the personnel to be employed in the various works of the Institute. It is a question of thinking about training for kindergarten, school and laboratory teachers; for assistants of boarders, Oratorians, workers and students.
On the part of the Superior General and her direct collaborators there is the awareness of the need to train the sisters in the educational task in the action they carry out between children, girls, and young people. To this end, various Regulations are published: Regulations of Speakers , [4] Regulations for Houses of Education , [5] Regulations for Festive Oratories and for Kindergartens, [6] Regulations for Boarding Schools [7] and later - thanks to the suggestions of Don Ricaldone - the indications for the artisan and agricultural schools. [8]
It must immediately be said that the Regulations - except for the Kindergartens and boarding schools for workers - reflect and almost mirror those of the Salesians, albeit with differences due to the fact that they turn to a female reality. We insist on order, cleanliness, vigilance, assistance without fully grasping the pedagogical-educational richness that these terms encompass in the practice desired by Don Bosco. This is spied upon by the Rector Major, Fr Rinaldi, to the Superiors preparing for the IX General Chapter (1928): "You are not part of the Salesian education system. D. Cerruti, questioned on this point, replied: "We have taken care of their spirit, of the teachers, but not of the educational system for the feminine youth" (and this in the last years of his life) "they have copied a little here , a little there ... ". D. Costamagna was a great Salesian, but he had his own ideas and kept them. D. Marenco, yes, he was very concerned about you, but he had not grown up in the Salesian House; therefore it cannot be said that he possessed the whole spirit of Don Bosco for the part we now touch. [...] And it went on, perhaps, and perhaps without, thinking what else is the boy, another the girl. [...] I also tell you this: you are too much to the external order! Also Don Bosco was there, but he placed the interior order before it. For Communion, for example: first the Sisters, then the postulants, then the boarders! We are all mixed up; Don Bosco wanted this; we have always gone ahead like this, and we see that it is good to go on like this. But you, in your days of machinery! ... First the Daughters of Mary, then the Angels, bench by counter ... Nothing, none of this; and also for this reason, put yourself with Don Bosco. You will have, perhaps, less external order, but there will be more freedom of spirit, and good communions will be safer ".[9]
Therefore, in spite of the worry of forming in the educational practice according to the system of Don Bosco, one is still far from the goal, even if positive signs are not lacking, as we will see below.
Nevertheless, the publication of the Regulations is a positive and important fact because it explains the purpose of each work, with what means it can be achieved, which people are in charge of the work, what roles and duties they have, what relationships there must be between people who operate in favor of youth. 

3. Sensitivity to the pedagogical and educational preparation of the FMA

It may seem that, as stated above, the FMA Institute lacks a formally pedagogical sensitivity. This is not exactly the case, although more emphasis is placed on practice, on how to be with and among girls. Not all of them feel the importance of supporting the practice with motivations based on a theory, on an educational training.
However, in Nice, where the staff for the works of the Institute is formed, the work carried out by Sr. Emilia Mosca [10]- Scholastic Councilor from 1876 to 1900 - has a pedagogical and educational value, which still remains emblematic for the ability to combine theory, experience and shared reflection, together with a personal accompaniment of the young sisters to train them in their educational task. This is evidenced by a paper published in 1965 with this motivation: "The General Chapter XIV [1964] reaffirmed that our work of formation for youth today will be all the more effective the more we will be faithful to the spirit and method of Don Bosco. "To update ourselves", far from meaning "change system", means "to go back" with a sincere will and with loving faith, to the sources of Salesian pedagogy, which has perennial vitality and freshness, today as a century ago ". [11]
The writing is the diary of Sister Clelia Genghini and catches at heart the way in which Sister Emilia Mosca, then called Mother Assistant, trains the sisters to be educators in Don Bosco's style not only with lessons and lectures, but in practice, in the being next to each one to say what is going and what is not right. They are pages of ongoing education.
He gives pedagogy lessons in the normal school of Nice, attended by boarders, postulants and young nuns. During the lessons he finds a way to move from theory to practice, as Genghini writes: "At the explanation of pedagogy Mother Assistant shows the importance of not allowing small groups during recess, and deduces it from the fact that in small groups, or there is the division of minds and hearts, or there is the demon of murmuring or worse, or there is the seed of particular friendships, or there is the inability of the assistant to obtain union, the life of recreation, the spirit of Don Bosco in the hours of relief ». [12]
Before the schoolgirls arrive for the beginning of the school year, gather the Assistants: «Mother Assistant again, who leads us to receive the boarders; it teaches us how to treat new women, how to do them immediately at home, to get to know them as soon as possible and to do them the greatest good among them. It beats and replies on the concept: to be Mothers and Sisters, but serious, but religious, but Salesian ». [13]
Guide the young sisters to learn the art of Salesian assistance in order to get to know the girls: «Mother Assistant leads us to recreation among the few teachers a little ten minutes; leave one of the most test tubes with the girls and lead the others to the nearby courtyard. "The girls immediately understand each other. Observe if they have a clear eye, see if they are afraid of your eyes and escape you; take a look at their moves; make them talk, laugh (you smile without laughing), and from the way they do and answer, you will soon come to know what kind you are in front of. This is a beautiful grace to know immediately who should be guided. But it is a grace that comes from reflection and prayer, therefore ... "". [14]
It is the Summary of Pedagogy for the 1st Normal Course, [15]some special instructions given to teachers and assistants, which reveal its pedagogical and didactic competence. [16]
Of her it was written: «She who impressed the educational face on the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and made him pass, in his humble beginning, by a gathering of excellent young men, united by faith and in the verb of Don Bosco, and undoubtedly animated by the best zeal, but humanly completely inexperienced, to an efficient educational organization, forging schools and teachers. And this he did in a particular style of fidelity and interpretative genius of the Saint's educational message ". [17] And Don Filippo Rinaldi expressed himself thus: «Sister Emilia Moscow was the one who understood Don Bosco's system in the education of girls well and translated it into practice: let her live again! ». [18]
In the Deliberations of the VII General Chapter (1913) we read: "Study in all its details, and make it the object of special instructions between nuns and novices, the" Preventive System "of Don Bosco and Salesian Pedagogy". [19]
Le Superiora, Mother Caterina Daghero, asked Fr Rinaldi - then Vicar of the Rector Major Fr Albera - to hold conferences on the practice of the Preventive System to all the staff of the Nice House. [20]These take place from 19 to 21 February 1917. Faced with the objection “Why weren't these things said before? Is all this an innovation? "He answers:" It's not an innovation, no; but it is a delay that can be explained in a thousand ways. And first of all: the Superiors have been primarily concerned with your religious spirit, rather than with pedagogy, because forming the spirit was of the utmost importance. When your Institute then reaffirmed itself and Colleges were opened in it, the Superiors who looked after you helped you to organize them like those instituted by Don Bosco, but for the reserve that they always had in dealing with you, they did not enter into certain details of your things. After all, do not believe that in this regard, at home, it is a smooth race ». [21]
Then there are the conferences of Fr Fascie to the teachers of Nice, [22] by Fr Ricaldone at the Superiore. [23] Yet, despite the guidance and the wise work of Mother Emilia Mosca, the calls of the General Mothers, of the School Councilors, the Salesian conferences, the pedagogical sensibility has difficulty becoming a common heritage.
This will happen in the 1940s, when the Institute can count on a good number of FMA graduates from the Faculty of Magisterium of the Catholic University of Milan, University of Rome; on the reading and enhancement of pedagogical journals, on adherence to Catholic magisterial associations suggested in particular by the school councilor Marina Coppa [24] and Angela Vespa; [25]on the recommendation of Fr Ricaldone in 1932: "I believe that all, not just some, (as you have done so far, addressing them to studies), should have a better education". [26]
A significant impulse is found in the XI General Chapter (1947) regarding the catechetical preparation for all the FMA. The Rector Major, Fr Ricaldone, made the following proposal: "One thing to which it will be good to arrive is a catechetical course during the holidays, done with great seriousness, and lasting at least a month, in which we gave notions of Salesian pedagogy , of catechetical methodology and teaching. And in this Course let the Sisters take turns. Of course the courses should be taught by selected personnel and also with abundant material ". [27]However, the most innovative and demanding proposal is this: «Your Institute will, over time, have a special Superior Course in which to gather the Sisters who are particularly gifted with intelligence and good will, coming from all over the world; an international center where a complete pedagogical-religious formation is given to those who must then spread the catechistic Word everywhere, and thus contribute more effectively to the salvation of souls and to the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to you. [...] You certainly won't do it tonight, but think about it! ». [28] This will take place in Turin in 1954 with the opening of the International Institute of Pedagogy and Religious Sciences, which in 1970 became the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences.
A sensitivity that makes its way into theVarious regulations in experiment of 1947 [29] and that later on will become more and more explicit. 

4. Proposal of subsidies and methodological guidelines

On the part of the Superior Generals, the School Councilors, the Salesians there is no lack of indications about books to read and methodological guidelines to follow.
What is significant is what we read in Genghini: «Mother Assistant distributes some books among the assistants:“ Educandi e educatori ”of the Bricolo; "The true principles of education"; "The practice of Christian education", by Monfant; etc. telling us: "You will exchange them among yourselves as you have read what you have in hand, and you will give me reason sometimes about what remains in your mind. In my turn I will tell you if your applications with girls correspond to Don Bosco's educational principles. I desire you, and you must desire it with me, true educators according to Don Bosco [...] .None, as one of the teachers or assistants, can distort the system of the Congregation, if it is introduced with non-Salesian methods and principles! And so much more falsify how much is its education and its efficacy among the students and among the Sisters. Careful, therefore, and well attached to Don Bosco, eh! ... Every day, read an article of your regulation and that of the girls "". [30]
What is most important to us is the reading of the life of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, as a trace to follow in the educational action among the girls. The Rector Major, Fr Rinaldi, never misses an opportunity to repeat it: "Study in all its details, and make it the object of special instructions between nuns and novices, the" Preventive System "of Don Bosco and Salesian Pedagogy (see from p.304 on p.312, 2nd Life Volume of D. Bosco, of Lemoyene) practicing them with filial love and constancy. "A Help to the Educator", of the Sac. Salesian Mr. D. Maccono, may also serve this purpose, especially in the Novitiates, adopting it as a textbook for school time ». [31]And again: "Keep yourselves dear and read more and more willingly the life of Don Bosco. In it you will always find new things to learn; in it you will always know better what He has done for the festive Oratory, for the salvation of youth ". [32]
Regarding the proposal to have translated into various languages La Vita di Don Bosco, by Mother Mazzarello, and other such books, Don Rinaldi replies that he has already ordered the translation of the two volumes of Lemoyne, in all languages ​​and thinks as well to the translation of the Life of Mother Mazzarello. [33]
The volume A Help to the Educator is a very useful aid both from the theoretical and practical point of view, as well as the subscriptions to pedagogical-didactic magazines.

5. Concluding remarks

From what has been written, it can be said that the Institute of the FMA has clearly understood, from its origins, the purpose for which it was born as stated in the 1st article of the Constitutions: "The purpose of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians is to wait to his own perfection and to help his neighbor's health by giving the girls of the people a Christian education ». [34]
This purpose is never in doubt. The question arises when we want to explore the concrete way in which the educational action is carried out. Are we teachers tout court for being FMA? It is enough to be members of an educational institute to be, ipso facto,educators or do we need something else? Perhaps, and perhaps without, we make the mistake of believing that education is easy. In reality, as Corallo said, "education needs to be studied with commitment and effort, and it is not something that everyone knows without ever having learned it, as many think, with guilty naivety". [35]And even before that, Herbart, speaking of pedagogy as a science of education, said: "And although Pedagogy is such a science that it must be widespread, in order to benefit, it is nevertheless dangerous for a great deal of contradictory opinions to precede it and take the his place. For many men it would be better if they had not heard of Pedagogy, until they had reached a profound education. And many errors would be spared if they were not asked to say something, those who cannot say anything profound ». [36]
Statements true then as today, which ask those who belong to an Institute with educational purposes, the commitment of a serious study, because you can not improvise educators without failing to the most elementary canons of a code of professional ethics, always writing in the consciousness of those who dedicate themselves to what has been called "the art of the arts", the art of "producing" the true birth of the human person provided with the weapons of knowledge and love.
In summary we can say that the FMA in the education of the popular class were based more on experience - transmitted in a vital way by the first generations - than on an adequate study. Not all of them benefited from the climate and the training of the Casa di Nizza Monferrato, the accompaniment of Sr. Emilia Mosca, the presence of the Mother General and her Councilors, and the Salesian conferences. It is therefore understandable that, despite the good will of all, in the educational action there have been ways of realizing that have not grasped the true and authentic meaning of education. This fact will prompt the Institute to address the problem of staff training, particularly from a pedagogical and educational point of view. A problem that is always open, especially today, in the rapid and frenetic changing of situations.

[1] The FMA Institute was born in Mornese (AL) on 5 August 1872, founded by Saint John Bosco (1815-1888) and Saint Maria Domenica Mazzarello (1837-1881) for the education of young women from the popular class. In Mornese he has his first house and community and in Sister Maria Domenica Mazzarello the first superior and formator.

[2] See answer in the Central Salesian Archive C 594 404 fasc. 2, envelope 2.

[3] Conference notes of the Most Reverend Mr. Don Pietro Ricaldone. SS. Spiritual Exercises for the General Superior and the Provincials from 17 to 24 October 1932, Turin, General House, [sd] 13-14; 16.

[4] Regulation for the installation and development of festive Oratories at the Sisters' Houses, in Deliberations of the General Chapters of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians held in Nizza Monferrato in 1883, 1886 and 1892, Turin, Salesian Typography 1894 art. 149-167e Regulation of the women's festive oratory , Turin, Salesian Typography 1895.

[5] Regulations for Houses of Education directed by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians , Turin, Salesian Typography 1895.

[6] Regulations for festive oratories and for kindergartens , Turin, Tip. Silvestrelli & Cappelletto 1912. The first regulation of kindergartens dates back to 1885. For more information, see Ruffinatto Piera, Childhood education in the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians between 1885 and 1922. General guidelines starting from regulations (1885-1912) , in AA.VV.,  Salesian education from 1880 to 1922. Instances and implementation in different contexts . Proceedings of the 4th International Convention on the History of the Salesian Work. Ciudad de México, 12-18 February 2006, edited by JG González-Grazia Loparco et alii, vol. I, Rome, LAS 2007, 135-160.

[7] Regulations for Convictions direct to Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice , Torino, Tip. Silvestrelli & Suhas 1913. On these issues see: Loparco Grace, The educational contribution of the FMA in boarding schools between ideals and achievements (1878-1922) , in went 161-191; Lanfranchi Rachele,  I invite you to work entrusted to the Pupils of Maria Ausiliatrice. From "simply albergo" to "education" , in ivi 237-266.

[8] Craft schools and women's agricultural schools. (out of print edition), Casa Generalizia, Turin [sd, ma1934].

[9] Recommendations and recommendations of the Rector Major Fr. Filippo Rinaldi to the Superior , in AGFMA CG 9. 1109-112, f. 3, 15.

[10] Emilia Mosca (1851-1900) graduated from the University of Turin at the age of 18 at the age of 18. Sent by Don Bosco to Mornese for the teaching of this language, she was conquered by the atmosphere of simplicity of the first Sisters and asked to enter the Institute. After graduating in 1874, he took on the role of teacher and director of the school first in Mornese and then in Nice. In 1876 she was appointed School Councilor for all the FMA schools. For the role of the school counselor in the FMA Institute see Cavaglià Piera, the school counselor in the schools of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Historical-pedagogical approach , in the Journal of Educational Sciences 32 (1994) 2, 189-221.

[11] Presentation, in Genghini Clelia, A year of assistance under the guidance of Mother Assistant Sr. Emilia Mosca. Nizza Monferrato, school year 1892-1893, Pro manuscripto, Turin, Private Printing School 1965, 5.

[12] Ivi 32.

[13] Ivi 12.

[14] Ivi 14.

[15] Cf AGFMA 220. 1. 2. 5 notebook ms. orig. ff. 28

[16] Genghini, A year of assistance 97-129.

[17] Dalcerri Lina, The educational style of Mother Emilia Mosca of St. Martin , in the Journal of Educational Sciences 5 (1967) 3, 323.

[18] Genghini, One year of assistance 10. In italics in the text.

[19] Deliberations of the VII General Chapter of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians held in Nizza Monferrato in September 1913 , Turin, Tipografia SAID Buona Stampa 1914, No. 17, 39.

[20] Cf Circular Mother Daghero n.28 of 24/4/1917 and Chronicle of the House of Nizza Monferrato: 19-21 / 2/1917

[21] Conferences of Fr Filippo Rinaldi, SDB, on the practice of the preventive system held at the Sisters of Nizza Monferrato from 19 to 21 February 1917 at the request of Mother General Mother Caterina Daghero, A 383-9-32, copy datt.

[22] Notes from the conferences given to the teachers by the rev. Mr. Don Fascie, Nizza Monferrato 21-28 July 1931 [sl.se.].

[23] Conference notes

[24] Marina Coppa (1869-1928) School councilor from 1900 to 1928. For further information: Dalcerri Lina, Mother Marina Cup. General Councilor of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians , Turin, FMA Private Printing School 19562; Ventura Maria Concetta, Marina Coppa, general school counselor , in The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Italy (1872-2010). Women in education, by Grazia Loparco and Maria Tersa Spiga, Rome, LAS 2011, 341-365.

[25] Angela Vespa (1887-1969). School councilor from 1938 to 1957. See Camilleri Nazareno, In memoriam. Mother Angela Vespa (1887-1969) , in the Journal of Pedagogy and Religious Sciences 8 (1970) 1, 5-17; Misiano Maria, a teacher of Christian humanism: Mother Angela Vespa. Personal Memories , in Rivista di Scienze dell'Educazione 25 (1987) 3, 297-306.

[26] Conference notes 14.

[27] Proceedings of the XI General Chapter of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Institute , Turin, Casa Generalizia 1947, 26.

[28] Ivi 27.

[29] Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Institute, various regulations in experiment , July 1947.

[30] Genghini, One year of assistance 31.

[31] Deliberations of VII Chapter No. 17 p. 39.

[32] Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Institute, VIII General Chapter held in Nizza Monferrato in September 1922. Answers - Instructions - Exhortations of the Venerable Mr. Don Rinaldi Filippo Rector Major of the Salesian Society and Apostolic Delegate for the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, [without edition date, without place and publisher] 42.

[33] Cf Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Minutes of meetings held at the conference for novitiates of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Turin (Borgo S. Paolo) from 1 to 4 June 1925. [s l., S e.], 45.

[34] Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Institute, Constitutions for the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Anastatic edition of the first Constitutions corrected by St. John Becco . Manuscript D, Rome, FMA Institute 2008, 17.

[35] Corallo Gino, Pedagogy. The act of educating. Methodological problems of education , Rome, Armando 2010, 101.

[36] Herbart Johann Friedich, Various pedagogical writings, trans. en. by G. Marpillero, Palermo-Rome, Sandron, 1928, 8-9.