(Rome 24 April 2004)

Dear Provincials,
Dear Rectors of Salesian Communities,
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Salesian Family,
Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Work of the Salesians,

An affectionate greeting to you all.

I wish you the gifts of Peace and Joy that flow from the Risen Lord Jesus Christ at Easter, and I implore the blessing and the gift of the Spirit for each one of you, your Provinces, your Communities, and for all your families. As you see from the date of this letter, I am writing to you at the beginning of the salesian month of Mary, the month of Mary Help of Christians, which we traditionally begin on the 24th of April and conclude with the solemn Feast of Mary Help of Christians on the 24th of May.

Don Bosco used to say about his mission and about his Congregation: "The Madonna has done everything." In his life he always cultivated a deep love for Our Lady, a love that profoundly shaped his life according to Mary's virtues, especially abandonment to the will of God. As a sign of gratitude to Mary, Don Bosco wanted to build a Sanctuary that would be an expression of the love of the whole Salesian Family for the Mother of God..

In this way the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians was built and solemnly consecrated on 9 June 1868.
In those years (1872) also in honour of Mary, Don Bosco with St Mary Domenica Mazzarello, began the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians which in his mind would be a living Monument to the Virgin Help of Christians. When Don Bosco set about building the Basilica, there were, as always, serious financial problems. To Fr Angelo Savio, who said to him:
"Don Bosco, the safe is empty, we can't begin the building of the Basilica…", He replied: "You just begin with the foundations. We have to leave something to Divine Providence …"

On 9 June 1868 when, at the end of the solemn consecration of the Basilica, many Bishops and distinguished persons congratulated him on the achievement, Don Bosco replied with a simple comment but one full of faith: "Of my own I put in nothing. Aedificavit sibi domum Maria". Mary built her own house. "Every brick, every decoration is a sign of a grace from her." (BM IX, 247).

My dear friends, I wanted to recall Don Bosco's way of acting and of seeing things in order to invite you to contribute through your generosity to an enterprise that will certainly be very demanding nowadays, that of a substantial restoration of the Basilica. I am sure that Don Bosco would do the same thing, inviting you to honour Mary and to ensure her protection for our communities, our families, ourselves.

The most pressing work is in regard to the major cupola of the Basilica, both in connection with the outer covering and the restoration of the interior. This will also involve the Chapel of Don Bosco, that of St Joseph and the whole Sanctuary area, including the small cupola. Other work will also be done in the side chapels of the Sacred Heart, St Francis of Sales and St Mary Domenica Mazzarello.

As you can imagine the work will be very expensive. This is why we are asking for your help. It would be wonderful if each Salesian Province, each local community, each group of the Salesian Family, in the first place the Salesian Cooperators and ADMA, were to show their involvement in giving fresh splendour to the "House that Mary built for herself".

As the Successor of Don Bosco, I invite you to make of this act of generosity a really spiritual experience, once again entrusting your life to Mary Help of Christians confiding to Her the requests closest to your heart. She will certainly show you how close she is and give you her help in answer to your prayers.

Thank you my dear Brothers and Sisters. May the Lord Jesus obtain for you the grace to contemplate the face of Mary, in this month of hers, and to learn from her, Our Mother and the Help of Christians, the best way to accept and to live the Word of GodMy affectionate blessing on you all.

                                                                        Fr. Pascual Chávez Villanueva, Rector Major

The Offerings for the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin-Valdocco:

1) By Bank Credit Transfer to:
Oratorio Salesiano San Francesco Di Sales - Basilica Maria Ausiliatrice
Banca SANPAOLO IMI - Agenzia 5 - TORINO - IBAN - IT19 - H010-2501-0051-0000-0011-876

2) By Post Office Account to:
Direzione Opere Don Bosco - Via Maria Ausiliatrice 32 - 10152 TORINO
- Ccp n. 214106 -
Please specify the purpose as:"Restauration of the Basilica"