Spirituality Agustina Rivas Lopez
MARTYR OF MERCY
The life of Aguchita is a living prophecy and testimony of the holiness of the people who live day by day in simplicity and openness to the “Grace of God that passes by” (St Mary Euphrasia). Aguchita was a free, strong, infinitely charitable woman with a deep faith in God. She cultivated a radical truth also referred to by Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate 112:
…solid grounding in the God who loves and sustains us. This source of inner strength enables us to persevere amid life’s ups and downs, but also to endure hostility, betrayal and failings on the part of others.
‘If God is for us, who is against us?’
On 27 September 1990 she was killed by the members of The Shining Path, executed together with six inhabitants of the village of La Florida, on the edge of the Central Rainforest of Peru, where she was carrying out her mission despite the dangers arising from the conflicts between the Armed Forces and the revolutionaries. They accused her of working with the Asháninka people and preaching peace. It was the first time that an armed group deliberately murdered a religious woman in Peru who was working with the Asháninka people and preaching peace.
The year before her martyrdom she went on a retreat about non-violence in Lima, and in September she wrote to the Provincial, Sister Delia:
“As for the spiritual, I am about to make gigantic strides. It seems these will be the last days of my life. The time is flying and I will have to use it well; otherwise I would present myself in eternity with empty hands. The Lord is too delicate. Let me tell you about one day in meditation when I remembered about the great “dream” I had when I discovered my vocation to be a religious sister: it was to work in the jungle. Years have passed, and I say to myself that the Lord has brought me here to give me pleasure in my old age, before I die – in short, I am clay in his hands.”
Aguchita fulfils the dream of her vocation to “go and work in the jungle, with the farmers, in areas of emergency and marginalization”. Her commitment to building the Kingdom of God and His justice in the world takes concrete form next to the Asháninka, an ethnic group from the Amazon Rainforest that was persecuted and oppressed for centuries. This population is historically known for being proudly independent and for its resistance to aggression and external cultural influences, which began with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The exploitation of this population culminated in the rubber boom (1839–1913): the Asháninka are enslaved by rubber tappers and it is estimated that 80% of the population was killed. To date, most of the Asháninka have returned to their ancestral lands.
The topicality of her existence
Antonia Rivas Lopez was born in Coracora on 13 June 1920, surrounded by much affection. Within the family, together with her ten brothers and sisters, she internalized the values of justice and solidarity and learned the Christian virtues, especially love for the poor. She had a very cheerful childhood in contact with nature, which fostered her deep respect for the environment, so much so that today the Congregation refers to her as a “Sign of an Ecological Conscience”.
In 1942, she decided to join the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. She has since then lived with unshakeable loyalty her commitment to the Person and mission of Jesus the Good Shepherd and fully trusted in Providence. In her apostolate with young girls and young women she expressed with great simplicity self-sacrifice, tenderness, joy and goodness.
Aguchita appears to us as a model of holiness in daily life through loyalty to small things.