Venerable Margaret Occhiena

Beginning of the Process: 2-8-1995
Conclusion of the Process: 4-3-1996

Capriglio

Margherita Occhiena was born on April 1, 1788 at Capriglio, in the province of Asti, sixth of ten children. She was baptised on the same day in the parish church. Her parents were peasant farmers full of good Christian attitudes and practices. From when she was just a child Margaret was a great worker. She had no opportunity for schooling because of the times she lived in and the tasks she had to do, but her love for prayer gave her a wisdom which could not be gained from books

Francis Bosco: I Becchi

In 1812 she married Francis Bosco. Francis was 27 years of age, a widower, with a three year old child, Anthony, and a sick mother to look after. Joseph was born the following year and in 1815 John (the future Don Bosco). They moved to the Becchi, a hamlet of Castelnuovo d'Asti. In 1817 Francis died of pneumonia.

A woman of great faith

Twenty nine year old Margaret found herself running the family alone at a time of famine, looking after Francis' mother, Anthony, and young Joseph and John. Margaret was a woman of great faith. God was foremost in her thoughts and always on her lips.

A mother's heart

The love of the Lord was so strong in her that it gave her a mother’s heart. A wise teacher, she knew how to combine fatherliness and motherhood, kindness and firmness, vigilance and trust, familiarity and dialogue, bringing up her children with disinterested love, both patient and demanding. Attentive to their own experience, she trusted both in human means and divine assistance. She brought up three children with very different temperaments, using the same criteria with different methods. She taught them the catechism and prepared them for their First Communion.

Accompanies her son's dream

When she heard about John’s dream at the age of nine, she alone could interpret it in the light of the Lord: “Who knows, but maybe you should become a priest”. She allowed him to be with some of the rougher lads, because they were better behaved around him. Anthony’s hostility towards John’s studies forced her to send her younger son away so he could study. She accompanied him all the way to priesthood. That day she said something that would remain in Don Bosco’s heart for the rest of his life. In 1846 when Don Bosco was seriously ill, Margaret went to be with him and discovering there the good that he had been doing for poor and abandoned youngsters.

At Valdocco

When asked to go with him in this work she said: “ If you believe this to be the will of the Lord, I am ready to go”. Mamma Margaret’s presence turned the Oratory into a family. For ten years her life became entwined with that of her son and with the beginnings of Salesian work: She was the first and principal Cooperator of Don Bosco’s; she became the maternal elements in the Preventive System; without realising it, she was the "co-foundress" of the Salesian Family.

Death at Valdocc

She died in Turin, struck down by pneumonia on November 25, 1856, at 68 years of age. Many youngsters went to the cemetery crying as they would for their own mother. Generations of Salesians called her and will continue to call her Mamma Margaret.