Blessed Laura Vicu¤a was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1891. Her father died when she was only 2.
Laura’s mother, Mercedes Pino, was anxious to support herself and her two daughters. After working as a cook for several years in the Quilquihu‚ Hostel, the owner, Manuel Mora, promised Mercedes that if she came to live with him as his mistress he would send Laura to a boarding school.
Life at school
Laura went to a boarding school ran by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (the Salesian Sisters). She was very happy living under the care of the young missionary sisters.
She was taught a love for religion and began to take a deep interest in the Catholic faith. Laura was a model student and a leader who helped other students in many different ways. On June 2, 1901, Laura made her First Communion. She wrote, “Oh, my God, I want to love and serve you all my life.”
Even at a young age, Laura was mature enough to understand her mother’s problems. Though not married, Manuel and Mercedes were living together like a married couple. Laura knew that it was a sin.
Mercedes had been distanced from God because of Manuel. This motivated Laura to pray every day for her mother’s salvation, and to help her to leave Manuel. “I wish Mamma would know you better and be happy,” she often prayed before the tabernacle.
Laura spent most of her time praying, and some of her classmates shunned her piety. However Laura had one good friend, Mercedes Vera, to whom she expressed her deepest feelings, such as her desire to become a nun. Inspired by the Salesian Sisters, Laura hoped to consecrate herself to God in the service of her brothers and sisters.
As Laura grew older, Manuel turned his attention from Mercedes to her. During a Christmas vacation, Laura was beaten twice by Manuel because she refused his sexual advances and his attempts to dissuade her from becoming a nun. She was forced to flee the house to avoid him.
Manuel stopped paying for Laura’s education, but she held to her desire to become a nun. When the nuns at her school learned of the situation, they gave her a scholarship. With a grateful heart, Laura returned to school, but she was still deeply concerned about her mother.
Oblation of life
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. Laura said to the Lord: “I offer you my life for that of my mother.”
Laura’s offer was accepted. In late 1903 Laura became seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis and returned to her mother. On Jan. 14, 1904, Laura refused the sexual advances of the drunken Manuel, who beat her unconscious. Though she recovered consciousness, Laura never recovered her health.
Before she died, Laura told her mother: “Mama, I offered 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!”
Laura smiled and said: “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Mary! Goodbye, Mother! Now I die happy!”
On Jan. 22, 1904, Laura died from a combination of the disease and the abuse.
Mercedes left Manuel and returned to the Catholic Church. On Sept. 3, 1988, Laura Vicu¤a was beatified by Pope John Paul II.