On Wednesday, October 6, we commemorate the 31st anniversary of Aguchita's Requiem Mass which was held in the Jesuit Church of La Inmaculada in Lima in the presence of vast numbers of friends, family, and women and men religious. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Mons. Julio Ojeda, Bishop of the Vicariate of San Ramón. Sr. Delia Rodriguez, the then Province Leader of Peru, read the following opening reflection:
To the total gift of self
We are gathered together to celebrate a paschal event. The mystery of a life that bursts forth vigorously and fruitfully after the grain of wheat has been buried in the earth.
Who was María Agustina Rivas?
She was a religious sister, born in Ayacucho, who was called one day to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd. We watched her make her way through life with steadfast consistency, offering up her life step by step, sowing peace silently and serenely. With the maturity of her seventy years of age, and somewhat fragile in health, she chose to work in an emergency zone, where the presence of the merciful Shepherd was necessary and vital.
She worked there for three years; like a sturdy pillar, she supported her sisters and was an angel to the local people. That is, until eight days ago when her Shepherd called her for the last time. He gave her the honor of shedding her blood for her sheep.
But our Sister Agustina did not die alone. To the names of the six local people who fell alongside her, we can add the numerous victims whose names are unknown, and whose number grows daily.
In this Eucharist, in which we offer the blood of Jesus, another victim of violence, the cry of all the blood shed rises up towards the Father, coupled with the blood of Christ that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel (Heb 12:24).
As God's people, our celebration also wants to proclaim our faith in the Gospel. We want to be and live as the Church of the Poor, to the total gift of life itself.
Amid our pain, we dare to proclaim the power of mercy and the redemptive strength of forgiveness, with the sentiments of Jesus the Good Shepherd. "How unique are the ways of our Father! What a reward for commitment! María Agustina is now at the altar of the Congregation's heart and, of course, at the altar of the heart of her people" (Message from the Congregational Counselor).
The memory of these deaths, of Christ's, of María Agustina's, and of all the innocent victims, commits us to faithfully follow the Good Shepherd who emptied himself of his life so that we may have life in abundance (Jn. 10:10).
Sisters and brothers who have journeyed with us during this time of pain and hope, we are profoundly grateful for your presence in this Eucharist. We invite you to say together with our Sister Agustina: "I will sing of the loving-kindness of the Lord forever" (Ps. 89).
After the ceremony, Aguchita, who dearly loved and prayed so much for priests, was carried on the shoulders of numerous celebrants dressed in white who led her coffin in a procession of palm leaves and olive branches, with heartfelt applause from the crowds who accompanied her to her final resting place in the Presbítero Maestro Cemetery in Lima.