Liturgical celebration: 13 May
Mary Domenica was born in Mornese, in the province of Alessandria, on 9 May 1837 to a large peasant family.
Equipped with an uncommon physical strength, since she was a girl she worked in the fields with her father Giuseppe: "Because God does not let us lack bread, we must pray and work," he said.
Thanks to the deeply Christian education received in the family, Mary made great sacrifices to meet Jesus daily in the Eucharist: "Without him I could not live". In 1860 typhus arrived in Mornese. Her confessor Fr Pestarino asked her for help in treating some relatives of the Mazzarello family. Mary accepted, but fell ill. She recovered unexpectedly, but lost the physical strength of the past, yet not her faith. Walking along the road she saw a mysterious vision: a big building with lots of girls running in the courtyard, and a voice that says to her: "I'm giving them to you".
Unable to be a farmer anymore, in agreement with her friend Petronilla she decided to become a seamstress, to teach poor girls to sew. The Holy Spirit formed a motherly heart in her. Prudent and wise, she educated the girls with preventive love. The small workshop opened and - as also happened to Don Bosco - the Lord sent her the first orphans to welcome. The first collaborators arrived, whom Fr Pestarino would call the Daughters of the Immaculate.
Don Bosco arrived in Mornese with his youth in 1864 to open a college for the boys of the town. Mary looked at him and exclaimed: "Don Bosco is a saint, and I feel it". Don Bosco visited the small workshop run by the Daughters of the Immaculate and was very impressed.
Pius IX asked Don Bosco to found a female institute, and summoning Fr Pestarino, he chose the Daughters of the Immaculate Conception, sending them to the newly built college. Mary and her companions suffered hunger, also because of the initial hostility of their fellow villagers, but they were always cheerful and their faith never wavered.
In 1872 the first fifteen Daughters of the Immaculate became the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Mary was called to govern the group but initially she called herself the Vicar, because, she said, "the true superior is Our Lady".
The Institute grew and the first houses were opened, the first missions in America. Mary was called "the mother". Despite everything she remained simple and caring with everyone, and always gave the example even in the most humble jobs.
With her wisdom she directed the spirituality of the Institute, incarnating the charism given to Don Bosco in the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
She died at Nizza Monferrato on 14 May 14 1881, at the age of 44. At her death the Institute already had 165 sisters and 65 novices scattered across 28 houses (19 in Italy, 3 in France and 6 in America).
She was beatified by Pius XI in 1938 and canonised by Pius XII on 24 June 1951.