Blessed Laura Vicuña

From Chile to Argentina

Laura Carmen Vicuña was born in Santiago, in Chile, on April 5, 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.

Boarding with the Sisters

In 1900, Laura went to board with her sister, Julia Amanda, with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at their school. She was a model pupil: prayerful, listened to the Sisters, available to her companions, always happy and ready to make sacrifices.

On the model of Dominic Savio

The following year, she made her first communion with the same fervor 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.

Request denied - prayer for mother

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?”

A prayer answered

Mercedes answered, “I promise I will do what you ask.” With this joy, Laura died the evening of January 22, 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 il 3-9-1988

Saint Dominic Savio 

Promise of holiness

Dominic was born on April 2, 1842, in San Giovanni di Riva, near Chieri (Turin). On the occasion of his First Communion, at the age of seven, he set out his life's program: "I will go to Confession frequently and Communion as often as my confessor allows. I want to make Sundays and feast days holy. My friends will be Jesus and Mary. Death but not sin." At twelve, Don Bosco accepted him into the Oratory in Turin and Dominic asked his help in order to "become a saint." Gentle, serene and happy, he put great effort into fulfilling his duties as a student and helping his companions in every way he could, teaching them Catechism, assisting the sick and settling quarrels.

 
Road to holiness

One day he said to a companion, who had just arrived in the Oratory: "You should know that here we make holiness consist in being always cheerful. We just try to avoid sin, which is the great enemy that robs us of the grace of God and peace of heart, and we try to fulfill our duties exactly." He was very faithful to his program of work, sustained by intense participation in sacramental life, by a filial devotion to Mary and by joyful sacrifice. God enriched him with many special gifts.

Love for Mary

On December 8, 1854, when Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Dominic consecrated himself to Mary and began to advance rapidly in holiness. In 1856, he founded the Immaculate Conception Sodality among his friends. This was a group dedicated to apostolic action and peer ministry.

Love for the Eucharist

Mama Margaret, who had come to Turin to help her priest son, one day said to him: "You have many good boys, but no one surpasses the beauty of heart and soul of Dominic Savio." And she explained: "I see him always praying, even remaining in Church after the others; every day he leaves recreation to visit the Blessed Sacrament; when he is in Church, he is like an angel in Heaven." He died in Moriondo on March 9, 1857. His remains are in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Turin. His feast is celebrated on May 6. Pope Pius XI defined him as "A little, or rather, a great giant of the Spirit." He is patron of young choir singers.

Beatified 3-5-50
Canonised 6-12-54

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis of Sales was born in the Savoy region of France in 1567. He studied philosophy and theology in Paris and earned a degree in civil and ecclesiastical law at Padua. He was ordained as priest in 1592. After his priestly ordination, he offered his services to the bishop as a missionary to bring the Calvinists of the Chablais region back to the Catholic faith. Out of the 31, 000 people in the Chablais, only about 100 were Catholics. St. Francis was advised of the intense dislike the Calvinists had for priests and despite despite his father's worries for his safety he went. St. Francis told his father that while the task of bring Christianity to the region was a heavy one it was his responsibility and calling to do so.He was made bishop of Geneva on December 8th, 1602. Together with St. Jane de Chantal, he founded and directed the Order of the Visitation. St. Francis de Sales died in Lyons on December 28, 1622.  St. Francis de Sales was canonized in 1665 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1877; he was declared the patron of Catholic journalists and writers in 1923.

One of Don Bosco's nine resolutions when he was ordained to the priesthood was, "The sweetness and charity of St. Francis de Sales will guide me in everything." Francis de Sales was by nature, his biographers tell us, very sensitive, irritable, and hot-tempered, but by dint of patient striving, day after day, from his early years, Francis succeeded in mastering his disposition to such an extent that he became known as the gentle, king and meek saint. Don Bosco knew, from his own experiences and the experiences of others, that his followers would need an outstanding model of these virtues in the difficult work which they would have to accomplish among the youth. The model he chose for his followers had to be Francis de Sales.  

 

Margaret Occhiena Bosco

     Margaret Occhiena was born on April 1, 1788 at Capriglio, in the province of Asti, sixth of ten children. She was baptized on the same day in the parish church. Her parents were peasant farmers full of good Christian attitudes and practices. From when she was just a child Margaret was a great worker. She had no opportunity for schooling because of the times she lived in and the tasks she had to do, but her love for prayer gave her a wisdom which could not be gained from books.

Francis Bosco: I Becchi

     In 1812, she married Francis Bosco. Francis was 27 years of age, a widower, with a three year old child, Anthony, and a sick mother to look after. Joseph was born the following year and in 1815, John (the future Don Bosco). They moved to the Becchi, a hamlet of Castelnuovo d'Asti. In 1817 Francis died of pneumonia.

     Twenty-nine year old Margaret found herself running the family alone at a time of famine, looking after Francis' mother, Anthony, and young Joseph and John. Margaret was a woman of great faith. God was foremost in her thoughts and always on her lips.

     When she heard about John’s dream at the age of nine, she alone could interpret it in the light of the Lord: “Who knows, but maybe you should become a priest”. She allowed him to be with some of the rougher lads, because they were better behaved around him. Anthony’s hostility towards John’s studies forced her to send her younger son away so he could study. She accompanied him all the way to priesthood. That day she said something that would remain in Don Bosco’s heart for the rest of his life. In 1846 when Don Bosco was seriously ill, Margaret went to be with him, and discovered there, the good that he had been doing for poor and abandoned youngsters.

     When asked to go with him in this work she said: “If you believe this to be the will of the Lord, I am ready to go." Mama Margaret’s presence turned the Oratory into a family. For ten years her life became entwined with that of her son and with the beginnings of Salesian work. She was the first and principal Cooperator of Don Bosco’s; she became the maternal elements in the Preventive System; without realizing it, she was the "co-foundress" of the Salesian Family.

Death at Valdocc

     She died in Turin, struck down by pneumonia on November 25, 1856, at 68 years of age. Many youngsters went to the cemetery crying as they would for their own mother. Generations of Salesians called her and will continue to call her Mama Margaret.

     The Cause for the Canoization of Margaret Occhiena Bosco has been introduced. The process began on February 8, 1995, at Turin, Italy, in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians Margaret is now called Servant of God. 

List of Salesians Saints with Canonized year
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About Joe

During my tenure at the youth leadership center (YLC) I started and coordinated many projects and I’ve planned and lead many retreats. I have participated in two World Youth Days with Pope Benedict in Germany and Pope  John Paul II in Toronto. I look forward to sharing my life experiences with all of you.  I look forward to working with all you in the upcoming years.

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