Maria Domenica Mazzarello, the eldest of the ten children of Joseph and Maddalena, was born on May 9, 1837, at Mornese in Alessandria, Italy. The Mazzarellis were a peasant family working in the vineyard and of the children the eldest was the best too for work. She was a strong built girl both physically and spiritually and that is why she sought the help of her Parish Priest to find expression for her inner Spiritual thirst.When she was just 15 she was part, if not the heart, of the Association of Daughters of Mary Immaculate that was formed by the Parish Priest Don Pestarino, with fifteen young girls. Maria Domenica, apart from being hard working, was a cheerful and outgoing girl and that made her the beloved among the children and women they worked with.
When she was 23, Mornese was struck by a typhoid epidemic and there was death and mourning all over in the air. But Mary was in action, serving the diseased and trying to help them fight the odds. She managed to solace a number of them, but when it was all over, she was down with the same illness and she was even administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of Sick. She fought back to normal health but the sickness did not leave her the same anymore, she had lost her robust health and strong physique. However, her spiritual strength only multiplied after that.
She had a vision one day as she strolled down a garden, a number of girls playing and a majestic divine voice speaking to her: 'I entrust them to you'. Somewhere far away, in the same Italy, a priest saw a similar vision and the voice to him said: 'These are my daughters, take care of them'. This priest was Don Bosco, who was till then taking care of poor and abandoned boys.
This young girl and that committed priest - how would they encounter each other? The Lord inspired Don Pestarino to play that role, when he invited Don Bosco to meet his spiritual association of the young girls. Did Don Bosco immediately see the Lord bringing the vision to reality? He did and very clearly. He grabbed the opportunity and 1867 was the year when Don Bosco met the group, in the first file was Maria Mazzarello who instantly found in Don Bosco something special and divine. He was to be the hand of God in fulfilling her personal charism and God given mission!
The Spiritual Father and Spiritual Daughter began their journey together to be Co-Founders of the Institute of Daughters of Mary Help of Christians which was founded on July 31, 1872. Maria Mazzarello accompanied by her 14 other young companions professed in the presence of the Bishop of Aqui, Monsignor Joseph Sciandra. She, now Sister Maria Mazzarello, was chosen unanimously to be the Superior and when she hesitated, was persuaded by Don Bosco to accept the call. She was then 35.
The young institute of consecrated women began to grow with the spirit of joy and optimism, spiritual surrender to the Lord and loving service to the young. Just as Don Bosco wished, they began to do with the girls, what the Salesians were doing with the boys! She lived just 9 years more but made a huge difference to the new born congregation guiding it in the right direction and pushing it towards spiritual excellence. Her humility and obedience was her forte and her determination and commitment her panache. She was fatigued by work but never tired in Spirit. With true courage of a Spiritual Warrior she bravely encountered her last moments of illness and death, at a very young age of 44, on May 14, 1881.
Her holiness was recognized by the Church and proclaimed to the world on June 24, 1951 and St. Maria Mazzarello shines today as a great hope for the poor young girls, assuring them of God's love and ever present accompaniment.