"UP TO TOTAL DISPOSSESSION"

 

 

"A life that has sprung up vigorously like the grain of wheat that is buried in the ground and bears fruit in abundance."

Antonia Luzmila Rivas López, born on June 13, 1920 in the province of Parinacochas, Ayacucho, Peru, was the first child of a large family of 11 siblings, all born in Coracora. Her parents were Dámaso Rivas and Modesta López.

As the first-born daughter, Antonia Luzmila, had to help with household chores.  Not only helping at home, her routine also involved working on the farm or taking care of the animals, which she greatly enjoyed.  She traveled the country roads many times contemplating the wonders that the Lord had created. Contact with nature enriched and strengthened her spirit.  Loving creation, she cultivated the land and cared for it.

From a very young age she met God in the warmth of the home where her mother played an important and decisive role for her vocation.  Similarly, with the closeness and her participation in the local Parish, in charge of the Redemptorist Fathers at that time, her love for God was reflected.   From an early age, she always showed a desire to belong to a Religious Congregation.

Thus, in 1942 she entered the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and in October of the same year she began her novitiate, adopting the name of María Agustina. Since then she was affectionately called "Aguchita".

On February 8, 1949, she made her perpetual commitment in the Congregation surrendering herself to the Mission with love and availability. Drawing attention to her ardent and unconditional Zeal, she always had words of encouragement for the young women.  Fatigue was not for her! She was always welcoming, serene and with an easy smile. "The Lord lived in her" while spending most of her religious life in the house of the Good Shepherd in Barrios Altos - Cercado de Lima.

In the years 1970 to 1975 Aguchita was missioned to the community of the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd, in Salamanca, Lima. Supporting the nursing service, there she shared experiences and animated conversations with the sisters who remember her as an "excellent and devoted nurse with a great heart."

In 1976 she joined the Community of Reina de la Paz (Casa Hogar), in Ate, Lima; where she was the oldest sister with deep inner strength to whom one could always turn for help, serenity and peace. Confidence in Providence is manifested when seeing this family home grow to welcome young women and providing comprehensive training.   She held a fundamental role empowering women and training them for work (weaving, cooking, baking, crafts, raising animals, cultivation of ornamental and fruit plants).

Since approximately 1978, the Congregation of the Good Shepherd began serving in the Centro Poblado “La Florida”, Province of Chanchamayo, in the Department of Junín.  It was an apostolic work from a promotion project, supporter of the autonomous development of the community. La Florida became a pilot center for the Congregation, from which action spread to neighboring communities:  women's organizations with health, education, nutrition, literacy and handicrafts programs, as well as youth clubs and family catechesis.

 

While our country suffered one of the most serious and devastating terrorism crises in this area, María Agustina, in 1987 went to the La Florida mission, thus fulfilling her desire of being a missionary in the Jungle, to work for themost needy people in this forgotten town.  Her notes read:

 

“The Lord is too delicate. … One day in meditation He reminded me of the great “desire” I had when I discovered my vocation to be a religious: it was to work in the jungle.  This has been years and I tell myself the Lord has brought me, to please me before I die, and in old age, well, I am clay in his hands”.

 

Sr. Sofía Canales comments: Talking about her is bringing to mind many “fraternal” memories… she was always at the service, attentive, humble and simple… with her, one felt in total confidence… the last time I talked to her we were on retreat. I got sick ... it was she who came every day to attend to me and one of those days she told me that they had already given her her mission and she told me she was going to La Florida and I said: and until when? "Until obedience tells me." It does not scare you? "Yes, I am afraid, but it is obedience that commands me; the Good Shepherd goes after the sheep they need and these people need me."

 

At the beginning of 1989, Aguchita was fully aware of the danger that being in La Florida (emergency zone) represented. Such is the case that she informed the Provincial of the presence of the Shine Path, which had entered the area and caused the death of two residents and other attacks in this place.  She was entrusting herself to God.

 

In 1990, she had to stay in Lima for a time because her health was beginning to cause her serious discomfort. However, it was not an impediment for her to decide to return to La Florida, as she said: "They need me there, I must go as soon as possible." Once there, she went back to work with peasant women, girls and young people.

 

Faith in God and her desire to help the La Florida community made her work continue to bear fruit, until on September 27 of the same year, around 3:00 in the afternoon, a subversive group from Shine Path called the people to come to the plaza and murdered 6 people, including Sr. María Agustina, who until the last moment asked for mercy for the other victims.

 

In this context, our Sister María Agustina Rivas was selectively assassinated. She died giving testimony of her faith in the Lord of Life and of her belonging to the simple and helpless people of the interior of our country. She died without defense as our poor die day by day. She died as a humble Peruvian who cannot understand how it is possible that in a country of brothers we are killing each other. 

 

Daniel Córdova, O.F.M., especially close to Sister Agustina, was her confessor during her years in the mission in Florida.

 

 “I was with her, from the moment the authorities, uprooting her from the ground and separating her from her companions in death, transferred her to the city of La Merced (Chanchamayo). I was in the cemetery, in the morgue and during the autopsy, next to her corpse. In those moments, as never before, I felt closer to her life. I asked myself many questions: What was the meaning of the death of Sr. Aguchita? Why her precisely? What was the point of her martyrdom? ... They were very difficult and raw moments. To see her body pierced by bullets ... but an existence pierced by fidelity and the consecration of a life.

 

Agustina's death is to assume her in love. She loved and only sought to do good among the poor, among the little ones, the poor of the earth. To love the poor is to love Life, it is to love the God of Life. There is no Love if there is no Life; nor does Life exist if one does not love. God is Love and therefore is Life. Life triumphs over death and becomes new in undeserved suffering, in injustice and in the death of the one who lives loving”.

 

María Agustina, becomes the first religious assassinated by Shining Path and is part of the list of thousands of victims that were in Peru, whose lives were taken by violence and hatred, but Aguchita's love and humility gave testimony of her faith in the Lord.

Aguchita was a woman of peace, and communicated peace, listened, helped, calmed… she was the mother of those who cried, of the marginalized, of the poor… and she gave her life for them, as a symbol of loving to the extreme….

Today Aguchita continues living.

By Commission for the Organization and Dissemination of the Cause of AGUCHITA