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The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, commonly known as Salesian Sisters, is a religious family born of the great heart of St John Bosco (Don Bosco) and of the creative fidelity of St. Maria Domenica Mazzarello.

St John Bosco


Mary Help of Christians


Maria Mazzarello


The story begins with a twice repeated dream of Don Bosco. He dreamt he was crossing Piazza Vittorio in Torino, Italy. The Piazza was filled with noisy, screaming girls who appeared to have no one to look after them. A few were in a group apart and were not playing. These came over to the saint and said: " As you see, we have been neglected". Immediately a gracious lady appeared who encouraged him to work for these girls. As she diasppeared into their midst she repeated: "Care for them, they are my children".

In 1864 with a band leading his group of boys, Don Bosco went to Mornese in the diocese of Acqui and was received royally. According to his custom when in Torino, each evening he gave a little talk to the people of Mornese before bidding them 'goodnight'. Among the group was one young woman who listened avidly to his words. This woman was Maria Domenica Mazzarello who was then 27 years of age.

Was she a dreamer too? Some years before and not knowing at all the work Don Bosco had begun for boys in Torino, she had seen on an elevation at Borgo Alto in Mornese, a large building with spacious courtyards. Many girls were playing in these courtyards and she heard a voice say to her: "I entrust them to you". Years later this building and spacious grounds became a reality. The four-story building was constructed by the townsfolk of Mornese and became the first school and boarding facilities for girls adminstered by the Salesian Sisters. 

Unbeknown to each other, Don Bosco in Torino and Maria Mazzarello in Mornese were working for the good of young people particularly those most in need. They first met in 1864 and throughout the next eight years shared their educational ideals till finally in 1872 they founded the congregation of the Salesian Sisters, officially known as the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Both cherished a great devotion to Mary and therefore named the new congregation after her. From 1872 to 1881,year of the death of Maria Mazzarello,the first group of Salesian Sisters spread throughout Italy, France and to overseas missions in South America. Maria Mazzarello's passion for young people can be summed up in the words of her closest friend, Petronilla Mazzarello (no relation). Petronilla attests that Maria "attracted the young like an iron does to a magnet". It is this passion that has attracted many other women to journey with young people from one generation to the next.

The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians is a family of religious women born of St. John Bosco and St. Maria Mazzarello's love for God and young people.

It follows the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales in three key aspects of his spirituality:

  • An optimistic humanism

  • The universal call to holiness for everyone

  • A union with God based on gentleness and kindness in everyday life.

Its story began in 1872 at Mornese (a village in northern Italy) where Maria Mazzarello worked in her parish for the good of the young. In 1864 Don Bosco met Maria Mazzarello and these two people realized that they were both working for the good of the young in their respective places - Don Bosco in Turin and Maria Mazzarello in Mornese. By 1872 the religious congregation of women was

St Francis de Sales

Spiritual Father

formed through its founders, Maria Mazzarello and Don Bosco. Over the past 130 years since its foundation the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians has spread to the five continents and now numbers around 15,000 members in over 90 countries.

In the Church the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians brings God to young people through the field of education in a wide variety of activities: schools, camps, hostels, retreat work, youth clubs.

Its educational philosophy is based on what the Salesians call the Preventive System - an educational approach based on:

  • Reason 

  • Religion

  • Loving kindness


Our province is dedicated to Mary Help of Christians and is called the South Pacific Region comprising Australia, Samoa, American Samoa and the Solomons Islands. We have three houses in Melbourne and two houses in Sydney. There are two houses in Samoa, and one house in the Solomons Islands. We carry on a variety of activities for the welfare of young people: parish work, work with migrants, schools, hostels, youth centres, retreat work, child care centres,camps, etc. 

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