Laura Vicuña

Blessed Laura Vicuña
Born April 5, 1891
Santiago, Chile
Died January 22, 1904 (aged 13)
Junín de los Andes, Neuquén, Argentina[1]
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified September 3, 1988, jpc by Pope John Paul II[1]
Feast January 22
Patronage Abuse victims, Argentina, incest victims, loss of parents, martyrs

The Blessed Laura Vicuña (April 5, 1891 January 22, 1904) is a Chilean holy figure beatified as Blessed by the Roman Catholic Church. She is the patron of abuse victims.


Escape from Chile

Laura del Carmen Vicuña was born on April 5, 1891 in Santiago, Chile[2] to Joseph Domenico and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats, the father in military service and the mother working at home. Forced out of Santiago by the revolution, the family took refuge in Temuco, but soon after Joseph Domenico died suddenly and Mercedes went to live with her two daughters in Argentina.[3]

Early years in Argentina

Mercedes and her daughters moved to the Argentine province of Neuquén. In search of a way to finance her daughters' education, Mercedes took a job in the Quilquihué Hostel. The owner of the hostel, Manuel Mora, propositioned Mercedes, promising to pay for Laura's education in exchange. Laura soon entered the Hijas de Maria Auxiliadora (“Daughters of Mary Help of Christians”) School, where, under the care of the nuns, she began to take a deep interest in the Catholic faith.


A church statue of Laura Vicuña.

Laura made her First Communion on June 2, 1901; at this time she expressed her vocation of love towards God, her desire to serve the poor and needy, and also to die sinless. Because of her deep religious interest, she was not well liked by her classmates. She spent most of her time "rezando" (praying) in the school's chapel. She had one good friend, Mercedes Vera, to whom she expressed her deepest feelings, such as her desire to become a nun. Even when very young, Laura took an interest in her mother’s problems, including what she saw as Mercedes' distance from God. She prayed every day for her mother's salvation and for her to leave Manuel Mora.

Problems at home

During one of her school vacations, Laura was beaten twice by Manuel Mora, who wanted her to forget about becoming a nun. She held to this desire even when Mora stopped paying for her education, and when the nuns at her school learned of the conflict, they gave her a scholarship. Although she was grateful to her teachers, she still worried about her mother's situation.

The sacrifice

One day, remembering the phrase of Jesus: “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends," Laura decided to give her life in exchange for her mother's salvation. As time passed she became seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis. Before she died, Laura told her mother: “Mama, I offer my life for you, I asked our Lord for this. Before I die, Mother, would I have the joy of seeing you repent?” Mercedes answered: “I swear, I will do whatever you ask me! God is the witness of my promise!" Laura smiled and said to: "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Mary! Goodbye, Mother! Now I die happy!" On January 22, 1904, Laura died of her disease, weakened by the physical abuse she previously received from Mora, having offered her life for the salvation of her mother. From 1937 to 1958, Laura's remains lay in the Nequén graveyard, after which they were moved to Bahía Blanca. One of her famous sayings is "Suffer silently and Smile always"[2]

Beatification process

The Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco started Laura's canonization process in the 1950s. The congregation commended that duty to the nun Cecilia Genghini, who spent many years collecting information about Laura's life. But she did not see the completion of her work; she died the same year the process began.

One incentive for the congregation was the beatification of Saint Dominic Savio (March 5, 1950) and the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti (June 24, 1950). The progress began in the city of Viedma. But Laura could not be considered a martyr, and because of her young age, there was not much hope for her beatification. Nevertheless, in 1981, the application process was completed by the congregation, and on June 5, 1986, she was declared Venerable.

Every candidate for beatification, except in the case of martyrs, must be shown to have obtained a miracle from God when their prayers were invoked. In Laura's case, the requisite miracle concerned the nun Ofelia del Carmen Lobos Arellano. In August 1955, doctors told Sister Ofelia that she would die of lung cancer in a few months, but when she confidently invoked Laura's prayers, the disease disappeared. September 3, 1988[2] saw Laura's beatification by Pope John Paul II. Her feastday is celebrated on January 22.

In the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology, Laura is listed under 22 January with the citation: 'Born in the city of Santiago, Chile, and a pupil of the Institute of Mary Help of Christians, for the conversion of her mother, she made an oblation of her life to God at the age of 13'.[4]


A traditional depiction of Laura Vicuña.

No photograph of Laura was known until recently, when a group photograph taken at her school was discovered showing her true appearance. A likeness of her had been painted by Italian artist Caffaro Rore based on descriptions by her sister Julia, depicting her as a dark-haired girl with European features. Church depictions have been changed to more accurately portray her as a serious-looking mestizo child.[5]


The primary shrine for Laura Vicuña is located at Renca Hill, a park of 30 hectares lying between the communes of Quilicura and Renca in Santiago, Chile. The chapel has a capacity of 100. On December 9, 1999, a shrine in the city of Junín de los Andes was inaugurated and dedicated to her memory.

There is also a small sanctuary in the village of El Durazno near the town of Combarbalá in the Coquimbo Region, where Laura spent part of her early childhood. Locals people contributed 200 blocks of adobe each for the construction of the sanctuary.[6][7]



External links

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