January-February 2008


In 1995, while on my First Mission Assignment as a seminarian, I was assigned to San Sebastian parish, Puerto Saavedra, in southern Chile. According to history, San Sebastian was a lay martyr in the early 4th century. He was a Roman military officer who became a Christian and refused to declare the Emperor Diocletian as divine, becoming an early ‘conscientious objector’. Sebastian was sentenced to death, tied to a tree and shot with several arrows. In Puerto Saavedra there is a wooden carving of his image, brought to Puerto Saavedra some 100 years ago by Italian Capuchins, depicting this death. There a great devotion grew and on San Sebastian’s feast day, 20 January, thousands of pilgrims come to celebrate and pay their ‘mandas’.

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Although she was only twelve when she died, Laura
Vicuña had grown to a maturity of faith well beyond
her years. Fr John Murray sees the life of this young
girl whose feast is 22 January as an inspiration.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope John Paul II endeavored to offer to the Church and the world at large, models for Christian living: people we can imitate and learn from, as we try to make our own way through the maze and pitfalls of life. In an age of sexual license, when often girls and young women can be at the mercy of sexual predators, the life of Laura Vicuña has something to say in our own day.

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There are some moments in your life that have such an impact, you are never the same. Your convictions and choices are forever colored by the impression, and it cannot be otherwise. This is my story of one of those moments . . .

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