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|Blessed Laura Vicuña|
|Born||April 5, 1891
|Died||January 22, 1904
Junín de los Andes, Neuquén, Argentina
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||September 3, 1988 by Pope John Paul II|
|Patronage||abuse victims, Argentina, incest victims, loss of parents, martyrs|
Escape from Chile 
Laura del Carmen Vicuña was born on April 5, 1891 in Santiago, Chile to Joseph Domenico and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats. Her father was in military service and her mother worked at home. Forced into exile by the revolution, they took refuge in Temuco in a poor house, but soon after Joseph Domenico died suddenly, and Mercedes had to take refuge with her two daughters in Argentina. They came to Junín de los Andes.
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, she 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 of Maria Auxiliadora” (Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) School, where she was taught a love for religion. Following her father's example, and with the care of the nuns, she began to take a deep interest in the Catholic faith.
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 among her classmates. She spent most of her time "rezando" (which means repetitive 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 was mature enough to understand her mother's problems, which included, as she saw it, Mercedes' distance from God. This motivated her to "rezar" (which means, ritually praying) every day for her mother's salvation, and to help her to leave Manuel.
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. Even when he stopped paying for her education, she held to her desire to become a nun. 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: “There is no one greater than the one that gives his life for his brothers," 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 tearfully answered: “I swear, I will do whatever you ask me! God is the witness of my promise!" Finally Laura smiled and said to her mother: "Thanks, Jesus! Thanks 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.
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 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'.
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.
Laura's sanctuary is located at Renca Hill, 30 hectares 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.
- Laura Vicuña
- A brave girl: Laura Vicuña
- Blessed Laura Vicuña
- Laurita delle Ande. Vita di Laura Vicuña
- Peter Lappin, The Falcon and the Dove: The Story of Laura Vicuna, Salesiana Publishers, 1985, 180 pages, ISBN: 0899440673, 9780899440675
- Blessed Laura Vicuña at Patron Saints Index
- "Blessed Laura Vicuna (1891-1904)", Salesians of Don Bosco, UK
- "Bl. Laura Vicuna", Salesian Missions
- Martyrologium Romanum, 2004, Vatican Press (Typis Vaticanis), page 112.
- Laura Vicuña Foundation, Inc.
- LAURA VICUñA (1891–1904): DYING FOR EVERY WOMAN's DIGNITY
- Blessed Laura Vicuña at Patron Saints Index
- Catholic Online
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- (Spanish)Special of Laura Vicuña, web site of church.cl