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Died in Guwahati on May 22, 1946
The intrepid leader of the second FMA missionary expedition to India and the first to Assam was Sr. Innocenza Vallina. She it was who blazed the way right up to the North East, precisely to Guwahati, together with her five companions: Sr. Giulia Berra, Sr. Maria Bricarello, Sr. Antoinetta Rossetti, Sr. Clotilde Appiano and Sr. Cecilia Da Roit.
The pioneering group left Italy on November 14, 1923 and reached Guwahati at about noon on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This was the last expedition sent by Mother Catherine Daghero, the successor of St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello, for she died on February 26, 1924.
Innocenza was born on January 6, 1876, at Gamelero, Alexandria, Italy. Her early education was with the Sisters of Charity at Turin, but afterwards she was with the FMA at Nizza Monferrato. After getting her Teacher’s Diploma she was admitted as a Novice and made her Profession on August 13, 1900.
In Italy she worked chiefly in Sicily, where she was the Superior of two houses successively and did much good among the poor. She long to be in the missions and when she recovered from a serious sickness she made her application and was accepted.
At Guwahati the Sisters stayed temporarily in a small house belonging to the Catholic mission and their first task was to study Assamese, Hindi and English. At forty-seven it was no longer easy for Sr. Vallino to pick up new languages.
Very soon a group of orphans sent by the two touring Salesians began to arrive. An orphanage, a primary school and later a workroom were started for these children. Sr. Vallino visited the Civil Hospital and the Villages around in order to meet the people and learn about their material and spititual needs.
On March 17-18, 1926 together with Sr. Clotilde Appiano, Sr.Cecilia Da Roit and a Khasi girl came by bus to Shillong and from here on foot to Jowai, walking up hill, down dales, jumping streams and crossing dark and lonely forests, with four-footed friends prowling close by. At Jowai all sorts of pioneering difficulties came her way: Language, dire poverty, climate, sickness and the most uncanny opposition of unfriendly Sects. She braved them all, placing great trust in Divine Providence and by the time she was transferred after six years to South India, Jowai St. Mary Mazzarello’s, was already cited as an example for the whole District of the Jaintia Hills. In 1934 she was sent to Italy to recuperate, a time she spent not in the missions but for the missions………..!
Toward the middle of 1935 Sr. Innocenza returned to Guwahati, this time in the community attached to the Civil Hospital. Besides the hospital her chief preoccupation was village visiting, which she did on foot for several hours in the blazing sun.
On March 25, 1936 together with Sr. Severina Schiapparelli and Sr. Mary Rossini, Sr. Innocenza started the new mission at Tezpur. Trials dogged her steps. Her indomitable courage was taxed heavily. The difficulties of the beginning were there, then others came tumbling and after another. Sr. Carmelina Spitalieri, who came to Tezpur soon after them, died, another Sister caught Malaria and had to be transferred and Sr. Maria Mezzacasa who was sent to replace her, died in 1944, almost suddenly, far away in Calcutta.
Here in Tezpur a new apostolate was begun, that is, a month long pre-nuptial course was held twice a year, in Advent and Lent. Good Christian families were ensured. Sr. Vallino took great care incultivating vocations.
As her health started declining because of the exhausting pioneering works, she was relieved of her responsibilities in 1943. She stayed on at Tezpur as a simple Sister, putting herself under the disposal of the new Superior, with simplicity and humility. Interior trials and hidden martyrdom marked her life at this period. Her response was prompt: “May God’s will be done!”
The heat in the plains was unbearable and oppressive and she was getting weaker and more and more exhausted. She left Tezpur for Mawlai in 1946, but on reaching Guwahati she could not proceed. The Sisters at the Civil Hospital welcomed her with love and attention. They all hoped that a little rest would give her some strength to reach her destination; but it was otherwise. She lost her power of speech and received the Anointing of the sick. Quietly she passed away on May 22 and was buried in Guwahati, the first field of her apostolate.
Sr. Innocenza Vallino loved and sought souls. She did not spare herself in doing good to all. Sacrifice and privations were welcomed as blessings from the Hand of Divine Providence. Great love for Jesus, His Passion and His Suffering strengthened her. When there was no priest to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sisters could not receive the Bread of Life, her meditative Way of the Cross was her support.
Her devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Help of Christians was practical and she imitated Her charity, which was intuitive, extensive and delicate. Bishop Ferrando declared: She was a genuine missionary …… The Mission of Assam owes her a great deal of gratitude…..”.