Escape from Chile
Laura del Carmen Vicuña was born on April 5, 1891, in Santiago, Chile, to José Domingo and Mercedes Pino. The Vicuña family were Chilean aristocrats, the father in military service and the mother working at home. Forced out of Santiago by the revolution, the family took refuge in Temuco, but soon after José Domingo died suddenly and Mercedes went to live with her two daughters in Argentina.
Early years in Argentina
Mercedes and her daughters moved to the Argentine province of Neuquén. In search of a way to finance her daughters' education, Mercedes took a job in the Quilquihué Hostel. The owner of the hostel, Manuel Mora, propositioned Mercedes, promising to pay for Laura's education in exchange. Laura soon entered the Hijas de Maria Auxiliadora (“Daughters of Mary Help of Christians”) School, where, under the care of the nuns, she began to take a deep interest in the Catholic faith.
Because of her deep religious interest, she was not well liked by her classmates. She spent most of her time praying in the school's chapel. She prayed every day for her mother's salvation and for her to leave Manuel Mora. She had one good friend, Mercedes Vera, to whom she confided her desire to become a nun.
Problems at home
During one of her school vacations, Laura was beaten twice by Manuel Mora, who wanted her to forget about becoming a nun. She held to this desire even when Mora stopped paying for her education, and when the nuns at her school learned of the conflict, they gave Laura and her sister scholarships. Although she was grateful to her teachers, she still worried about her mother's situation.
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. As time passed she became seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis. Before she died, Laura told her mother: “Mama, I offer my life for you, I asked our Lord for this. Before I die, Mother, would I have the joy of seeing you repent?” Mercedes crying, 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 January 22, 1904, Laura died of her disease, weakened by the physical abuse she previously received from Mora, having offered her life for the salvation of her mother. From 1937 to 1958, Laura's remains lay in the Nequén graveyard, after which they were moved to Bahía Blanca. One of her famous sayings is "Suffer silently and Smile always"