Bahía Blanca (Argentina). On 22 January 2021, the Feast of Blessed Laura Vicuña is celebrated. Of Chilean origin, she met the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Junín de los Andes, Argentina, in the Province of St. Francis Xavier (ABB), where her journey of holiness began.
The story of Laura Vicuña takes place through the places that marked her family life: from Santiago de Chile, which saw her born on 5 April 1891, to Junín de los Andes (Argentina) where she lives ‘her Paradise’ in the School of the FMA and where she matures her journey of holiness in everyday life, up to the choice of giving herself for the conversion of her mother. This leads her to be born into heaven on 22 January 1904, at the age of 13.
The horizons of Laura’s young life opened up to the whole world on 3 September 1988, on the Hill of the Youth Beatitudes, in Castelnuovo Don Bosco (Asti, Piedmont). In the presence of thousands of young people participating in Confront ’88 of the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM), she is beatified by Pope John Paul II and proposed to young people as a model of evangelical coherence up to the gift of life. Her body is now in the chapel of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Bahía Blanca (Argentina), the destination of many pilgrims.
In 1988, Sr. Haydée Del Piero was the Provincial of the ABB Province and she is now the Animator of Mother Mazzarello Community of Bahía Blanca. Interviewed by Mr. Maximiliano Rodríguez, she tells of the emotions experienced during the Beatification of Laura.
What can you tell us about that moment?
It was a very beautiful experience, an unexpected news arrived from Rome: the date on which Laura Vicuña would be beatified. We were living the year of the centenary of Don Bosco’s birth: the FMA Institute together with the Salesians of Don Bosco were undertaking a series of initiatives. She would be beatified by the Pope, today St. John Paul II, on the hill where Don Bosco was born. So we started all the preparations in a hurry. Laura’s remains had to be exhumed and deposited in the sacristy, which still exists. They had remained in Junín de Los Andes until 1955. Since it was a difficult time for the Church, they were taken to a safer place: this is why Laura is in Bahía Blanca… The moment was very emotional, remembering it now is still exciting. After the passage of the bones to the urn, the whole community came to pay homage to Laura.
Laura is Chilean, but she is also Argentine, from Junín de los Andes. The initial process took place in Viedma, capital of Río Negro and she was transferred to Bahía Blanca. When they proclaim her Blessed, Laura already belongs to the whole world…
Yes, Laura belongs to the whole world. There at Becchi on the morning of September 3, 1988, many people had gathered, many young people, because the Pope was about to declare Colle of Becchi “the Hill of the Youth Beatitudes”. It was a truly Salesian feast! … It was a bright sunny day, which is rare because there is always a lot of fog but we could see part of the Alps. Laura wanted the Junín mountains to be present in some way. It was a solemn Holy Mass, very well attended. When the Pope declared Laura Blessed, a group of young people ran towards Laura’s image carrying bouquets of flowers. Now we await her Canonization.
You were at Junín de Los Andes and then Bahia Blanca. In reality, you have always been close to Laura…
I was only in Junín for two years, but I was close to her. The most beautiful gift I received was the moment of exhumation and when, with the Provincial of Chile, I took Laura’s remains to the altar, which at that time was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. People still keep coming to ask Laura for prayers. It is she who attracts. She is a wonderful example and a great protector of families.
In this time of pandemic, there is no shortage of initiatives to celebrate Laura’s feast which, in compliance with health regulations, are transmitted online, thus reaching the devoted faithful and friends of Laura present all over the world, starting from the Novena spread online, around the places where Blessed Laura lived.
On 22 December 2020 there began a “virtual pilgrimage”, transmitted from the Sanctuary of Bahía Blanca, where the FMA Community daily animates a time of prayer, reflection, and encounter with Laura.
“May Blessed Laura Vicuña enlighten all of you, young people, and always inspire and support you, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, who have been her educators!”
(St. John Paul II)