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Would you kindly first tell us something about yourself in brief. Where do you come from?

From Europe - Portugal

I am Sr. Maria Fernanda Afonso - FMA Provincial ADMA Animator and on behalf of Fr. Joaquim Taveira da Fonseca – an SDB Provincial ADMA Animator. We are also delegates for the Salesian Family.

Something of yourself, life and your experience of faith? How long have you been FMA?

I have been a FMA for 41 years. I was born in a Christian family. We prayed the Rosary every day. We are five brothers and sisters. I met the FMA when I was 11 years old when I joined a boarding school.

By the end of that year, I had already told a friend from my town, also a boarder, that I would like to become a nun. Today we are both FMAs.

The love for Mary was very much cultivated in the College but at that time, the ADMA had not yet been introduced to us.

Fr. Joaquim Taveira has been a SDB for 60 years and a priest for 50 years. Since childhood, he has been fascinated by the Salesian environment. He entered the SDB minor seminary in Poiares da Régua.

How long have you been an animator of the Association?

I have been a provincial animator for ADMA for 10 years. Fr. Taveira for 7 years.

What have you been doing?

I have been a teacher, assistant, catechist, director, provincial secretary, SSCC delegate. Since 2012, I have continued to do almost everything, but I have never had a leading role.

Now I am SSCC national delegate, local pastoral coordinator, assistant and catechist.

Fr. Taveira has been a teacher, school coordinator, national sports coordinator, headmaster for many years and above all parish priest.

He is now Delegate for the Salesian Family, for the SSCC (also local), for the VDB, as well as provincial and local Animator for ADMA.

And now to ADMA....

How and where did the Association develop in your province/region?

[Something about the history of the local ADMA, when the first groups were formed, by whom, when]

The Association of Mary Help of Christians has existed in Portugal for many years, linked to the SDB houses, since the beginning of the Portuguese Province of St. Anthony. In the book by Amador Anjos, on the Centenary of Salesian work in Portugal, 1894-1994, p. 96 onwards, we read the following:

“In the context of the Portuguese province, the Association of the devotees of Mary Help of Christians experienced a certain flowering in the early days. Then it entered a long phase of almost oblivion. In recent times it is renewing itself and trying a minimum of organisation and formation, while realising that today it cannot limit itself to a set of religious practices and wearing a badge, but must assume the apostolate as an integral part of its spirituality.”

An interview with Fr. João de Brito who was the Provincial of the SDB, confirmed this: “The origin of the Association of Devotees of Mary Help of Christians in Portugal is of course linked to the coming of the SDB to Portugal but its growth is undoubtedly due to Fr. Álvaro Gomes, at the same time as the beginning, some 40 years ago, of the Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady Help of Christians at MOGOFORES which became national in 1986.”

In the FMA communities, it was only in 1988 that the first ADMA group started in Cascais, at the Externato Nossa Senhora do Rosário, founded by Sr. Rosa Teixeira, the then Director, and then followed by Sr. Lea Teixeira, the first local and provincial Animator. The number of local centres increased in the FMA houses and the SDB houses and were restructured.

Can you tell us today how many local groups and associates exist today? (Some data on presence, number of groups, number of associates)

Participation in the various activities organised by the Association got much reduced because of the pandemic. It is slowly increasing.

There are currently 16 groups in Portugal, 9 of which are SDB groups, in the following centres: Estoril, Évora, Funchal, Lisbon, Manique, Mirandela, Mogofores, Porto, Cabo Verde. There are 7 FMA groups in the following Centres: Abrantes, Arcozelo, Assunção, Bairro do Rosário, Monte Estoril, Setúbal and Vendas Novas. The number of Associates according to the 2021 Census is 615, with 200 affiliated with the FMAs and 415 with the SDBs. Since then, there have been new commitments.

How is the Association structured at provincial and local level?

The Association is organised according to the ADMA Rules. There is a Provincial Council and there are local Councils. Some have had elections at the right times, others less so.

Can you tell us more about life and the journey in the Association?

The ADMA’s proposal, in general, is offered to those who follow the Association’s activities with enthusiasm. The groups meet monthly, close to or coinciding with the monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians, in order to deepen their formation and to organise specific activities which have as their main aim ‘to promote love for Our Lady, under the title of Help of Christians’ and ‘to increase adoration of Jesus, present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist’. Some groups organise moments of Eucharistic adoration and Marian prayer open to others or participate in those organised by the SDB or FMA Communities. In the SDB houses, the Eucharist is always celebrated on the 24th. The National Day of ADMA is celebrated on the day of the pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. The formation proposals are, in general, those sent by the Primary ADMA. The local ADMA groups take part in pilgrimages (in October, to the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, in May, to the Shrine of Fatima), retreats and other training activities organised at the national level. Some groups also collaborate in social and charitable activities of the local Church.

How do you relate with the other groups of the Salesian family?

The Association participates, through its National President, in the annual Salesian Family Council and in the Salesian Family web page (Word in the ear). The members of the Local Centres participate in the three national activities for the whole Salesian Family (Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians in October; Presentation of the Rector Major’s Strenna in January; Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in May). At the local level, they organise moments of ‘Live-in’ with the other groups of the Salesian Family present in the House and sometimes in the area.

Thinking of the future, what ideas and projects do you have to preserve the faith among the people and to promote love for Jesus in the Eucharist and entrustment to Mary? And for young people?

This is a good question to ask at the first meeting of the year, this September, with the representatives of the local councils.

I think it would be good to try to invite the most sensitive families to catechesis to revive love for Our Lady in families.

I propose to ADMA PRIMARY to make known the various activities carried out with families and young people so that the good practices can inspire the ADMAs in other countries.

The work done with the existing groups has been important to revitalise the devotion to Mary Help of Christians in the working classes of our society and to live according to Christian and Salesian principles. There is still a lot of work to be done on the Christian and Salesian level. Families have to be energized to develop their entrustment to Mary.

“Promote love for Our Lady, under the title of Help of Christians.”


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