Thursday, November 16, 2006

Magherita Occhiena

John Bosco's Mother Is Decreed "Venerable" Margaret Occhiena, Co-founder of Salesian Family

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes read a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Margaret Occhiena, mother of St. John Bosco, as well as her reputation for holiness. Cardinal José Saraiva Martins read the decree Wednesday in the chapel of the Salesian community in the Vatican. On hand were the rector major of the Salesians, Father Pascual Chávez; the postulator general, Father Enrico dal Cóvolo; the prefect of the Apostolic Vatican Library, Father Raffaele Farina; the director general of the Vatican Press, Father Elio Torrigiani; and the members of the religious community.

After the reading, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone came to offer his greetings and his blessing. The Congregation for Saints' Causes, at the invitation of Benedict XVI, promulgated the decree Oct. 23. At the end of the brief ceremony the rector major, Father Chávez, said: "This is a memorable day for the Salesian family which sees Mama Margaret take a further step toward the altars. "It is an event the whole Salesian world has been waiting for and for which it has been preparing with many initiatives in honor of the mama of Don Bosco. We entrust ourselves to her so that she may intercede for the whole Salesian family and for the congregation as it prepares to celebrate the 26th General Chapter in 2008."

Widowed Margaret Occhiena was born on April 10, 1788, in Caprigli, Italy. She lived at home until she married Francis Bosco. Later she moved to Becchi. After her husband's premature death, Margaret, 29, had to raise her family alone at a time of starvation. She took care of her husband's mother and of the latter's son Anthony, while educating her own sons, Joseph and John. She supported her son John in his journey toward the priesthood.

At age 58, she left her little house of Colle and followed her son in his mission among the poor and abandoned boys of Turin. There, for 10 years, mother and son united their lives in the beginnings of the Salesian Work. She was Don Bosco's first and principal cooperator. She contributed her maternal presence to the Preventive System. Thus she became the "co-founder" of the Salesian family.

Margaret was illiterate but full of a wisdom that helped so many street boys. "For her, God was first, so she consumed her life in the service of God, in poverty, prayer and sacrifice," explains a biography issued by the Salesians. She died on Nov. 25, 1856, in Turin at age 68. A throng of boys, who wept for her as for a mother, accompanied her remains to the cemetery.

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