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America

2004-01-21

AMERICA/CHILE - HUNDRED YEARS AGO 12 YEAR OLD BLESSED LAURA VICUNA DIED FOR LOVE: HER BRIEF LIFE MARKED BY SUFFERING TRANSFORMED WITH LOVE CHALLENGES YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY

Rome (Fides Service) - Laura Vicuna was born in Santiago del Chile on 5 April 1891. Her father, a victim of political persecution, had to flee to the south of the country where he died when Laura was only 2 leaving the family without any means of support. In 1899 her mother, who had been robbed of the little she had, emigrated to Argentina with her two daughters and settled at Junin de los Andes. In 1902 the man with whom the mother was living tried to persuade Laura to accept his favours. When the little girl refused, the man said he would stop paying the fees for her education at the school run by the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix. However the Sister said they would keep Laura at school all the same. Laura grew to spiritual maturity in a short time and decided to offer her life for the conversion of her mother. She died on 22 January 1904 at the age 12. Through her sacrifice her mother returned to Christian life. Laura was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 September 1988.
In memory of Laura Vicuna the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix started a Foundation in her name to promote Family-Homes for girls aged between 5 and 18 in difficult social conditions or without the support and love of a family.
To mark the centenary of the death of Blessed Laura on 22 January 2004, Mother General Antonia Colombo, of the Daughters of Mary Auxiliatrix sent a circular Letter to remind her Sisters of the young girl’s life which she said shows the little girl’s growth in Salesian spirituality. A life marked by suffering but transfigured by love.
The Mother Superior describes the religious community at Junín de los Andes college, where Laura spent about four years and where she learned to live the demands of the Gospel. “For me praying, working, playing sleeping, are all the same thing”. These words of Laura Vicuña - says Mother Colombo – speak of daily holiness lived with joy in an environment permeated with ideals which sustained and rendered natural sacrifice offered with love. Everything came from one Love, the presence of God in every day life. Laura confirms this when she says: “I feel God keeps reminding me that he is present. Wherever I am, in the classroom, in the playground I remember he is there and I am happy ”. The sense of God’s presence was nourished through the Eucharist. After she had made her first Holy Communion, Laura never failed to receive the Bread of Life and to adore God’s presence in the Eucharist.
Salesian Father Augusto Crestanello, little Laura’s confessor and first biographer, said that her love for Jesus gave rise to love for Mary. She said that the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist led her to feel the presence of Mary. As she grew in friendship with Jesus, she entrusted herself to Mary by joining the Association of the Children of Mary: “How lucky I am to be a Child of Mary”, she used to say. It was December 8, 1901. To be a Child of Mary meant choosing Mary as her guide for life and with her help become a helper (auxiliatrix) of her companions, her family. From Mary Laura drew the strength to defend her purity and to offer her life for the person she loved most on earth, her mother. When she was near death Laura said: “My greatest comfort is my devotion to Mary … she is my mother! Nothing makes me happier than to think that I am a Child of Mary!”. Love for Mary made her want to be everything for everyone. She was kind and thoughtful to all whom she encountered. She was known to be a reliable, gentle girl, admired and appreciated. But Laura was not born a saint. She grew in holiness by responding to the gift of the Spirit as she lived daily life seeing Jesus present in every person she met. At the College the little immigrant girl far from being shunned by her companions grew to be a pre-adolescent mature in her faith and already on the path to holiness.
Mother Antonia Colombo almost at the end of her circular Letter asks her Sisters a question: does Laura’s life have a message for today? And she answers: it depends on us, if we have hope and confidence in young people today, if, as a community, we are able to bear witness to Christ as the only One who can fill the aspirations of the human heart. Pope John Paul II does not hesitate to indicate the young people the demands of loving and following Jesus: “Whosoever loses his life for my sake will save it”. And the Holy Father says to young people: “You must be the saints of the new Millennium” (Homily and Message for 15th World Youth Day, Rome, 2000). (S.L.) (Fides Service 21/1/2004; lines: 54; words: 854)

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