Aguchita's murder did not go unnoticed, and many official statements were released following her death and burial. Today, as we continue to reflect on Aguchita's life and legacy, we share the final of four of these, as follows:
Statement from the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
The Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd shares the pain and hope of the Peruvian community of good faith in the face of the violent death of their dearly beloved Sister María Agustina Rivas López.
In March 1980, the Good Shepherd began its apostolic work in La Florida, Chanchamayo, Junín, through an empowerment project to promote the autonomous development of the community. La Florida became a pilot center for us, from which the work radiated into neighboring communities: women's organizations with programs of health, education, nutrition, literacy, and crafts, as well as running youth clubs and family catechesis. Over that decade, this region of the central jungle has become an increasingly troubled and challenging area.
Just over a year ago, a subversive group made several incursions into La Florida. In recent days, between September 27 and 29, they killed seven people, including our beloved sister.
María Agustina was born in Coracora, Ayacucho, seventy years ago, and entered our Congregation in 1942. We always found her to be welcoming, modest, humble, and full of kindness. Three years ago, she wanted to live out her vocation by serving her sisters and brothers at the mission in La Florida (Vicariate of San Ramón), fully aware of the risks involved in working in an emergency area, where the presence of the merciful Shepherd is widespread and vital. Despite her 70 years, she was always cheerful and serene and tireless in her devotion to the work of evangelizing and empowering women through her knitting, baking, and cookery workshops. She had the gift of being able to connect with adults and children. Everyone in La Florida sought out Sr. Aguchita, as they called her. By her side, the children learned how to pray, knit, bake, and care for plants and animals. When members of the subversive group called her to the square to be executed, she was teaching the girls how to make candy.
On September 27, just like the Good Shepherd, whom she loved and intimately followed, she offered her life, without abandoning her flock, suffering the same fate as Jesus: the death of those forsaken by the world.
Our sister marked out the path for us to follow and showed us what it means to be faithful to our charism of love, acceptance, and reconciliation.
From the life of faith, we know that María Agustina has not died, but that, today, hers is a life that has sprouted vigorously like the grain of wheat that is buried in the earth and bears a multitude of fruit. "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:55). María Agustina lives in the risen Jesus and lives among us forever.
Today, as the Congregation celebrates the opening of the international Congregational Assembly of the Contemplative Sisters (CACS), we recall the words in the statement from over three decades ago: “Our sister marked out the path for us to follow and showed us what it means to be faithful to our charism of love, acceptance, and reconciliation”. Having lived with the contemplative community in Salamanca for five years, Aguchita would have developed a deep and clear understanding of the complimentary contemplative and apostolic dimensions of the Congregation’s charism. In fact, the path she marked out for us to follow is reflected in the love, acceptance and reconciliation experienced through the Journey of Enrichment which culminated in the reunification of our two sister congregations and through the Congregation’s new Constitutions – in which apostolic and contemplative ways of life have been integrated. From our shared life of faith, we know that Aguchita has not died, but that hers is a life and legacy that continues to sprout vigorously. During this Assembly, we pray that the path she marked out for us to follow continues to be an example of what it means to be faithful to live out our shared charism.