Feast Day : January 10 or 22
Patronage: young people; Argentina; Chile
Laura Vicuña was born April 5, 1891, in Santiago, Chile, the first child of José Domingo Vicuña and Mercedes del Pino. Her father was a well-connected member of the Chilean aristocracy, though her mother came from a poor family. Due to the difference in social class, Laura’s mother was never accepted by the Vicuña family. The difficulties worsened when Laura’s father found himself on the losing side in a civil war and was forced to flee the capital for the small town of Temulco. He died there in 1895, two days after the birth of his second child. Laura’s mother moved with Laura and her younger sister to the pampas of neighboring Argentina, where she was struggling to make ends meet when she met Manuel Mora, the owner of a ranch outside the town of Junin. Soon the family moved to the ranch, and Laura was well provided for with food and clothing. Mora even arranged to send the girls to a school run by the Salesian Sisters of María Auxiliadora in Junin. Laura started attending this school in 1900, when she was nine. At the school, Laura heard how a couple are bound above all by love; she also heard one of the nuns inveighing against couples living in sin. The first time she heard this, she fainted. When the nun returned to the same theme in the following lecture, she blanched. But the strength of her growing faith led her to conceive a plan. She would offer her life to God if he would release her mother from the sinful life she was leading with Mora. When she mentioned her plan to her confessor, he cautioned that if she made such an offer, God might accept and could take her life quickly. Nevertheless, on the occasion of her First Communion, Laura tendered her offer. When Laura went to the ranch on vacations, Mora treated her badly, striking her and apparently even trying to take sexual advantage of her, but Laura is said to have held him off. She prayed regularly—although her mother told her not to let Mora know—and suffered her trials as penance. Back at school, when the building flooded in winter, Laura braved frigid water for hours to bring younger children to safety. In the process, one of her kidneys became infected, and her health began to deteriorate. As Laura grew steadily worse, her mother brought her back to the ranch and sought medical help for her, but she did not improve. Laura was sure that she was going to die, and believed that this stemmed from the pact that she had made with God. On her deathbed, she told her mother about this pact, and pleaded with her to leave Mora, which she promised to do. Laura died happy and smiling on January 22, 1904, at the age of 13. True to her word, her mother changed her name and moved away, never again choosing a life of sin. Laura’s remains were buried in a chapel of the Church of María Auxiliadora. She is held up as a model for young people.