She was executed for loving too much: Meet Sr. Aguchita

Sister Aguchita–                                               she loved too much

By Larry Peterson

Maria Agustina Rivas Lopez was born on June 13, 1920, in Coracora, Peru. She was the oldest of eleven children born to Modesta Lopez de Rivera and Damaso Rivas. They gave their daughter the name of Antonia Luzmilla. Antonia and her siblings had loving and caring parents who taught their children the Catholic faith and its virtues.

Antonia developed a deep love for the poor and, as she grew older, always did her best to help and protect them. She loved harvest time because she could give the poor much more than usual. The country atmosphere was well suited to Antonia as she loved nature with its abundance of plants and farm animals. She also liked helping her mom taking care of the house; no simple task with thirteen people living under one roof.

Antonia’s mom did her best to take her children to Mass every day. It was not always possible, but she sure tried. Her children attended Catechism class in the Parish. Her brother, Caesar, answered the call to become a priest, eventually being ordained a Redemptorist.

In 1938 Antonia was in Lima, visiting her brother, and was already feeling the call to service in the Church. It was during this time she had her first encounter with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Antonia began a vocational discernment with them, which ultimately led her to enter the Congregation  Antonia received her habit and, with it, a new name. From then on, she was known as Maria Agustina, but the sisters would call her Aguchita.

While she was still in her novitiate, her father passed away. Deeply saddened, she continued to move forward with her calling and, on February 8, 1945, professed her first vows. She prayed that she could always work with the poorest of the poor. She was steadfast in her commitment to serve Jesus by serving the poor, and in 1949, she made her Perpetual Profession of Vows. Aguchita had a dream and in it she was in the jungle working with the peasants in the “emergency zone” She was not sure what that meant, but it was real for her.

Aguchita lived for many years in Barrios Altos in Lima. During this time, her mom died. Aguchita worked in many different places, which included learning various jobs. This diversity put her organizational skills on display. leading to varied leadership levels within the Community. This included working with the poor and putting Aguchita in constant contact with young women who needed help.

Aguchita happily lived the charism of Mercy in her community life, always displaying her love and consideration for her Superiors. She always seemed to step in when a sister was ill or on vacation, tend to the sick whenever extra help was needed, assist in setting up meetings and assist wherever else help might be required. She truly loved being Sister Aguchita.

In 1987 Sister Aguchita remembered her dream of being sent to the “emergency zone” in La Florida. The Sisters had been working in the area for eleven years. La Florida had been among the most violent in Peru, and it was home to the poorest of the poor. This area saw constant skirmishes and bloodshed between the Peruvian Armed forces and the guerilla organization known as Shining Light, a Maoist group that hated Christians.

The Sisters knew the risks. They had a saying, “Leave the town or give your life for it.” After prayer and reflection, they choose to “give life” and stay there. Sister Aguchita had, from the moment she arrived in La Florida, devoted herself to the natives extending to them the same love she would give to anyone. She had written, “I was never a respecter of persons,  I loved everyone. To love the poor is to love life. Is to love the God of Life.

Sister Aguchita worked with the Ashaninka tribe, a people who had been almost wiped out in the early twentieth century. Rubber exporters destroyed the forests and brought disease to the natives. .Sister Aguchita spent most of her time working with the young women of the tribe.

On September 27, 1990, members of the guerilla band, Shining Path entered the village. Sister Aguchita was taken outside and stood in front of the villagers. Six of the local natives were also taken out to make examples of. A 17-year-old girl executed Sister by firing seven shots into her with a rifle. Sister Aguchita died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith).

On May 21, 2021, Pope Francis confirmed the martyrdom of Sister Maria Agustina Rivas Lopez, fondly known as “Aguchita” and a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. The date for her Beatification has not been determined.


Saint Turibius Alphonso de Mogrovejo—He fiercely objected to being appointed a Bishop especially when he was not even an ordained priest—

This Archbishop is the Patron Saint of Latin American Bishops and native people’s “rights.”

St. Turubius de Mongovejo                     en. wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Turibius Alfonso de Mongovejo was born in the Vallodolid province in Hapsburg, Spain, on November 16, 1538. His parents were nobles, Luis Alfonso de Mogrovejo and Ana de Robles Moran. Turibius had a sister who was named Grimanese.

Even as a pre-schooler, Turibius demonstrated pronounced piety. As he grew older, his devotion to the Blessed Mother increased, and before long, he was fasting once a week in her honor while also praying the Rosary daily. Since he had been born into nobility, he was able to enter the college at Vallodolid. He did this at the age of twelve, and he immediately began studying the Humanities.

After finishing his studies, Turibius was given a position as a professor of law at the upscale College in Salamanca. His uncle, Juan de Mogovejo, was a professor at the college and highly regarded. Soon after, King Juan III asked Turibius’s uncle to teach at the College of Coimbra. Uncle Juan accepted and took his nephew with him, where Turibius simultaneously continued his studies while also teaching. Not long after, Uncle Juan died suddenly. The ordered life of Turibius of Mogrovejo was about to change dramatically.

King Philip II of Spain had been monitoring the abilities and character of Turibius. He decided to appoint the young man as the Grand Inquisitor on the Inquisition Court, which was stationed in Grenada. The year was 1571 and Turibius was only 33 years old. Many complained and raised concerns about the young man’s experience, but King Philip would not change his mind. He wanted Turibius.

Lima, Peru, was the second most important city in Spain’s Latin American empire. The most important was Mexico City. When the Archbishop of Lima died, the King immediately looked at his replacement options. He wanted someone he could count on. At the time, the arrangement had been that the King could appoint a bishop, and the Pope would give his approval. King Philip appointed Turibius to replace him.

There was one problem; Turibius was not an ordained priest. He was a layperson and was shocked to hear that he had been appointed. He argued fiercely to be taken from consideration. The King refused to change his mind.

Turibius argued canon law explaining that  the King did not having the power to name a bishop. His points were valid but the pope overruled him. In 1578, they fast-tracked his ordination and, after four weeks of intense study, he received Holy Orders. He said his first Mass when he was 41 years old. On May 16, 1579, Pope Gregory XIII named him Archbishop of Lima. He received his episcopal consecration in August 1580 and, along with his sister and her husband, arrived in Lima in May of 1581.

King Philip II had chosen well. Archbishop Turibius was extraordinarily dedicated and plunged into his mission filled with zeal and enthusiasm. He literally exhausted himself on year-long missions within the vast territory visiting the priests and people in his care. He standardized sacramental, pastoral and liturgical practices using synods he convened just for that purpose. He even produced a trilingual catechism in Spanish and native dialects and actually learned to preach and speak in these different tongues allowing him to hear confessions and converse with the natives.

Saint Turibius became ill on the way home from one of his extended journeys. He died far from home at the age of 67. Ironically, he had predicted the exact date and hour he would die and, indeed, that came to pass. He died on March 23, 1606. It was Holy Thursday, and the time, as predicted, was 3:30 p.m.

In his twenty-four years as archbishop, he baptized and confirmed half a million people. Among them were Martin de Porres, Francisco Solano, and, of course, Isabel Flores de Oliva, who all became saints. Isabel is more commonly known as Saint Rose of Lima.

The archbishop had traveled thousands of miles through the most challenging jungle wilderness.  He never missed offering Mass and he never accepted any gifts. He was canonized in 1726 and named the Patron Saint of Latin American Bishops by Pope St. John Paul II in 1983. He is also Patron to Lima, Peru and to “native rights.”

He was what some might call a “late bloomer” but when he did finally bloom, he was a thing of beauty. He is compared to the great Italian, St. Charles Borromeo.

St. Turibius de Mogovejo, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


How a child-housekeeper named Florentina, became Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Florentina Nicol y Goni was born on March 14, 1868, in the town of Tafalla, in Navarre province, located in northern Spain near the French border. Her dad, Juan Nicol y Zalduendo, was as shopkeeper specializing in selling and repairing farming equipment.  The families life changed dramatically when the lady of the house, Agueda, passed away in 1872.

Dad did his best but was having a hard time managing the home and family. When Florentina was ten, her dad’s cousin, a cloistered Carmelite nun, offered to take the two middle girls to educate them at the monastery’s boarding school. Juan was relieved to have such help and readily agreed. The girls would later go on to become Carmelite sisters. Since the oldest daughter had already married this left Florentina the only child still at home. The housekeeping was left to her.

In December of 1881, Florentina’s dad enrolled her in a boarding school called the Convent of Santa Rosa. Located in Huesca, it was a cloistered community of The Third Order of St. Dominic. The school had a fine reputation and it quickly transformed the thinking of Florentina about the direction her life should take.

Her father had remarried and in 1883 he and Florentina’s new stepmother removed her from the school feeling she had received enough education for a woman. However, Florentina’s vocation had erupted. She knew for sure what she was called to do with her life. She was fifteen years old. Once back home she began praying intently that she might be able to answer the call.

Her father knew his youngest child had her mind made up and in October of 1884, he allowed Florentina to enter the Dominican Convent back in Huesca. In 1886 Florentina Nicol y Goni took the religious name of Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart. She became a teacher at the school she had attended herself and remained in that position for the next 27 years. But change was on the horizon.

In 1913, secularism had reared its ugly head, and anti-clerical laws were being enacted in Spain. Consequently, the Spanish government seized the school and expelled the sisters. The sisters were faced with some hard choices. Stay in Spain and be deprived of being able to minister to the children or enter the world of the missionary. They had learned from different publications about different missionary congregations and wrote to the authorities of several ecclesiastical groups asking for permission to do so. One response came back.

Father Ramon Zubleta had just been appointed by the Holy See as the new Apostolic Vicar of a new Vicariate. The location was in the Peruvian forest near the Amazon. Before leaving for Rome, he stopped in Huesca. He asked the sisters if they would consider coming with him to Peru. Among those that did volunteer, five were chosen. Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart was chosen as their leader.

Bishop Zubleta, accompanied by three friars and the five sisters,  arrived in Peru on December 13, 1913. They were given housing at the Shrine of Our Lady of Patronage and would spend two years of training to get accustomed to the culture and superstitions of the natives in the jungles.

In 1915, Mother Ascension and two of the sisters left for the mountain forests. Two stayed behind to care for the Shrine which had been left in their care. It took them 24 days to cross the Andes and reach Puerto Maldonado. This place was situated at the end of two rivers accommodating communications and acting as a supply depot. No one there had ever seen a white woman before. Folks were also quite shocked that the women had made it across the mountains.

Following the leadership of Mother Ascension, the nuns founded a girl’s school and took care of the sick. The master general of the Dominicans’ asked Sister Ascension if she could start a new congregation. Along with the local bishop, she created the Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Rosary. Today it has 785 Sisters serving 21 nations on five continents. Four of the Order’s sister are considered martyrs having died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) in the Congo in 1964. Their crime was for refusing to leave patients alone in a hospital.

Mother Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart died on February 24, 1940. With the authorization of Pope Benedict XVI, she was beatified by Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins on May 15, 2005. The ceremony took place in St. Peter’s Square.

Blessed Maria Ascension of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019