Laura Carmen Vicuña was born in Santiago, in Chile, on 5 April 1891 to Joseph Domenico and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats, 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. Mercedes came to know the rather pushy Manuel Mora and accepted working for him, but also living with him.
In 1900 Laura went to board along with her sister Julia Amanda at the school run by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. She was a model pupil: prayerful, listened to the Sisters, available to her companions, always happy and ready to make sacrifices.
The following year she made her first communion with the same fervour and ideals as Saint Dominic Savio, whom she had taken as a model. She entered the Children of Mary. While one of the Sisters was explaining the sacrament of marriage during catechetics, Laura began to understand her mother’s sinful state, and fainted. She also understood because during the holidays on the farm her mother made her pray in secret, and never went to the sacraments. From then on Laura increased her prayers and sacrifices for her mother’s conversion. During the holidays in 1902 Manuel Mora threatened Laura’s virtue; she firmly refused him, sending him into a rage.
She went back to school as a student assistant, because he would no longer pay her fees. With all her heart she asked if she could become a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, but she was denied this because of her mother’s living in sin. She offered her life to the Lord for her mother’s conversion, became more self-sacrificing, and with the consent of her confessor, Fr Crestanello, made private vows. Her health suffered from sacrifices and from other sickness, and she was beaten by Mora for refusing him yet again. On her final night she confided: “Mamma, I am dying! For a long time I have asked Jesus, offering my life for you, so you will return to God... Mamma, before I die will I have the chance to see you repent?”
Mercedes answered, “ I promise I will do what you ask”. With this joy, Laura died the evening of 22 January 1904. Her body lies in the chapel belonging to the Salesian Sisters in Bahía Blanca. At the centenary of Don Bosco’s death, this chosen daughter, who had given her life for the virtue dearest to the Master, was proclaimed Blessed
Declared Venerable: 5-6.1986
Beatified by John Paul II: 3 - 9 - 1988