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Father Anthony Ho

Bl. Laura Vicuñas, patron of abuse victims

Voices Feb. 20, 2019

Although Laura Vicuñas had very little religious knowledge, she had an innocent heart that was ready to discover God, writes Father Ho. 

Blessed Laura Vicuñas is the patron of abuse victims. She was born April 5, 1891, in Santiago, Chile, the daughter of Joseph Dominic Vicuña and Mercedes Pino.

Joseph was an officer in the army who belonged to a distinguished family of Spanish origin. His wife, Mercedes, came from an ordinary Chilean household. The Vicuña family had disowned Joseph because they disapproved his marriage with Mercedes.

Chile was experiencing political unrest. The President of the Republic, Joseph Emanuel Balmaceda, who was supported by the Vicuñas, abdicated. Despised his efforts, revolution broke out. There was violent reaction against supporters of the former president, including the Vicuñas. In those days, it was sufficient to be called a Vicuña or a Balmaceda to be persecuted to the point of death.

Joseph Vicuñas sensed the danger and went into exile in Temuco with Mercedes and their little daughter. In 1893, Laura’s little sister Julia Amanda was born. Soon after, Joseph died of pneumonia.

Mercedes, now a young widow in her late twenties, had to spend long hours sewing to support herself and her two daughters. She took up dressmaking and saved money to purchase a shop – a haberdashery store.

One night in 1899, thieves broke into the store and stole everything. Mercedes felt defenceless and decided to leave Temuco for Neuquén in Argentinia. Mercedes and her daughters made a first stop at Norquin, then moved on to Las Lajas towards the south. At the end of 1899 they were near Junín de Los Andes.

In the midst of insecurity, Mercedes clung to a man named Manual Mora, a wealthy ranch owner. He was about 40, a handsome but perverse man. Mercedes thought he would be a protector for herself and the children, so she followed him and lived with him. However, Manual had no intention of marrying her.

Another woman, Tomasa Catala, had been Manual's mistress at the Quilquihué ranch and had been subjected to cruel treatment. When Manual was tired of her, he tied her to a horse post. After branding her flesh with a red-hot iron used to mark his herds he drove her away. Manual also mistreated the natives, horsemen, shepherds, and servants. He used the whip not only on dogs, but on people as well.

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (also known today as the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco) were opening a school at Junín de Los Andes. Mercedes wanted to put Laura and Julia into their care. Manuel was willing to pay the monthly school fee and for their clothes. Mercedes travelled on horseback for 20 km from Quilquihué to Junín. She introduced herself to Sister Angela Piai, the Superior, and asked for two places for her daughters.

Laura was overjoyed to go to school. She told a priest that she could not explain the reason for this deep joy which took over like a fountain of clear water. She said, “It's true, however, that I was happy, Baby Jesus must have been pleased with my mother’s decision.”

A religious sister recalled that Laura could read and write a little and could say some prayers. Though she had very little religious knowledge, she had an innocent heart that was ready to discover God.

Soon Laura learned to live according to a timetable and to look after herself and her personal belongings as well as those of her sister. She followed the religious sisters to pray in the chapel, which helped her to encounter God.

At the beginning of the school year, Laura listened to a reading of the school rules: “Try to practice virtue from your earliest years because to wait for old age is to put yourself in very grave danger of being eternally lost.”

Young Laura had the intuition that her mother, being the mistress of Manual, had gone far away from God and was in danger of eternal perdition.


                                             羅拉就讀母佑會學校  

真福羅拉.庇賦妮婭於1891年4月5日出生在智利的聖地亞哥,父親若瑟.道明.比庫尼亞,母親梅西德詩.皮諾。

當軍人的父親若瑟,祖籍傑出的西班牙家庭,母親則是一般的智利婦女。由於他們這段不被認同的婚姻,若瑟早被自己家庭唾棄。

智利當時政局不穩,暴亂叢生,比庫尼亞家族所支持的共和總統若瑟.厄瑪努耳.巴爾馬塞達跨台,巴爾馬塞達和比庫尼亞兩個名稱的家族被聲討。若瑟有感安全受到威脅,遂攜同妻子和小小的羅拉流亡,寄居特木科省。1893年,小女兒茱莉婭.阿曼達出生;可惜不久,若瑟因肺炎病逝。

梅西德詩、作為二十八歲的寡婦,為了獨力撫養兩名幼女,早晚辛勞地藉縫紉維生,甚至節儉儲蓄,買下了小小的服式用品店經營。

1899年的一個晚上,小店遭賊人光顧,物品盡失。梅西德詩萬分無助,醒覺母女弱勢而居,並不安全,惟有從特木科省遷到阿根廷的內肯烏地區,在諾爾昆稍事停留,然後往南移,經過拉斯拉哈斯,最後在安第斯山脈胡寧定居。

缺乏安全感的梅西德詩,在當地認識了奎爾基衛牧場的富有場主,名叫曼奴埃耳.莫拉。曼奴埃耳年約四十歲,雖長相英俊,卻有虐待的僻好,曾把先前情婦杜瑪薩.加太娜綁在馬栓上,施以炙熱的烙印,把她趕走;又用皮鞭對待土著、馬伕、牧人、僕人。曼奴埃耳並沒有跟梅西德詩結婚的打算;故此,梅西德詩尋求一個安穩家庭的苦心將會落空。

聖若望鮑思高創立的母佑會,在安第斯山脈胡寧開辦學校;在曼奴埃耳財政資助下,梅西德詩把兩個幼女送往寄宿就學。胡寧的奎爾基衛牧場距離該學校有二十公里遠,梅西德詩還是忍著不捨,把年幼的女兒羅拉及茱莉婭,交託給院長安琪拉.琵婭伊修女。

懂事的羅拉,雖然感到分離的傷心,但對能有機會上課學習,表現雀躍。她對一位神父透露,那份喜樂有如受到一道清泉灌溉;她解釋:「確實,我很高興;也相信小耶穌對我母親這個決定,亦感到高興!」

一位修女回憶:羅拉能寫讀得很有限,她的宗教智識亦不多。但她純潔的心,隨時都願意尋求天主。

很快地,羅拉適應校內有規律的生活作息,懂得照顧自己和妹妹的物品,學習到如何跟隨修女們祈禱,與天主相遇。

開學時,學校修女勸勉,說:「設法在早年修好聖德,因為若只等到老年才修德,是把自己的靈魂立在永罰的大險境!」年幼的羅拉,立即明白她的母親,當了別人的情婦,正是遠離天主,並有永恆隕落的大危險。