Vicuña, Laura, Bl.

views updated


Virgin, martyr; b. Apr. 5, 1891, Santiago, Chile; d. Jan. 22, 1904, Junín de los Andes (on the Rio Negro near Chile), Patagonia, Argentina.

Following the death in 1895 of her soldier father, José Domingo Vicuña, Laura's mother, Mercedes Piño, moved the family to Junín de los Andes. Because of the family's poverty and her inability to find work, Mercedes became the mistress of a local hacendero, Manuel Mora, on his ranch called Quilquihu near Neuquén. In Junín Laura and her younger sister Julia Amanda were accepted into the new school run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (Jan. 21, 1900). Laura came to understand that her mother's illicit union endangered her soul. Laura pledged her life for her mother's conversion before her confessor. Laura fell ill during the winter of 1903, and Mercedes moved with her daughters into a small house near the parish church at Junín. Mora, enraged by the abandonment, sought out and began beating Mercedes. Laura intervened and received Mora's abuse as well. She died at age twelve from internal injuries inflicted by Manuel Mora during that final confrontation. After Laura admitted on her deathbed the promise she had made to Godher life for Mercedes' salvationher mother returned to the Church. Vicuña's body rests in the María Auxiliadora Chapel.

Pope John Paul II called her the "Eucharistic flower of Junín de los Andes, whose life was a poem of purity, sacrifice, and filial love" (beatification homily, Sept. 3, 1988, Turin, Italy). Patron of Argentina.

Feast: Jan. 22 (Salesians).

Bibliography: a. auffray and a. swida, Pszeniczne klosy: opowiesc o niezwyklym zyciu trojga wychowanków salezjánskich, 2nd ed. (Łodz 1982). j. m. blanco, Laura, la flor del paraíso (San José Costa Rica 1942). d. grassiano, Laura Vicuña (2d. ed. V Rìme, Slovenia 1969).

[k. i. rabenstein]