AGUCHITA, SEEDS OF A NEW PEOPLE Sister María Agustina Rivas, RGS Martyr of mercy + Perú 27th September 1990 -2012
“The word of Yahweh came to me, asking, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a branch of the Watchful Tree.’ Then Yahweh said, ‘Well seen, for I am watching over my Word to perform it.’ … I am going to bring justice to my people… As for you, prepare yourself for action. Stand up and tell them all I command you. For look, today I have made you into a fortified city… I am with you to rescue you’.”
(Jer. 1:11-19 NJB)
These words of the prophet Jeremiah have surely given strength to our sister Agustina Rivas.
HER LIFE, A PILGRIM THEOLOGY
It is possible to identify what defined her personality through her day-to-day life. She was a bearer of the Good News of Mercy and the dignity of women; through her words and deeds she proclaimed the Good News of forgiveness and unity. She followed her Master to martyrdom. Her life as a shepherdess, her mysticism and prophecy, and her ultimate sacrifice are aspects of religious life which grant us more easy access to the God of Life.
Her experience of God deepened through her personal relationship with Him and her devotion to Him. Her life revolved totally around Him.
Let us listen to her, “The reality of the spiritual life is a continual imitation of the Lord, our model. He experienced tiredness, thirst, pain, hunger… the disciple can be no greater than her Master… 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.” (from a letter to the Provincial and the personal notes of Aguchita)
She was constantly seeking the will of God, letting Him act in her life and assuming the mission of Jesus the Good Shepherd when she says, “Lord, you are waiting for me and I do not want to wait myself… the cry of the people has reached me… I want to spend myself for you without saving anything for myself.” (Personal notes of Aguchita)
THE VOICE DE AGUCHITA HAS NOT BEEN SILENCED
Her proximity to the people, the most vulnerable, and her absolute commitment to them confirm the evangelical impact that the life of this woman of faith had on the hearts of simple people, the smallest and most helpless… Aguchita lives among us, still pressing for responses to questions raised by the current reality and by the Congregation, such as:
FOR A SOCIETY WITHOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
“I have heard the cry of the people and I do not want to wait.” (Sr. Agustina Rivas)
These words make sense in the current reality of Peru when we see, with pain and a sense of helplessness, how the numbers of victims is increasing, as well as the methods used to capture mainly girls and women. Poverty is one of the factors which make people more vulnerable. The precarious situation in which many families live makes ‘attractive job opportunities’ more welcome.
This slavery of the 21st century has developed in a socioeconomic context of inequality and instability in which unbalanced gender patterns prevail. An imaginary social class exists, which tolerates circumstances related to the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.
Aguchita: What is this woman who took such a radical risk inviting us to do? What more can we do to be faithful to the call of the Good Shepherd who loves, seeks, heals, raises up, and simply receives the pain of those who are treated as slaves? The chains they carry are not visible; however, they are much heavier and more difficult to remove.
Faced with the situation of violence, subjugation and cruelty in which these women live, we are trying to respond, as consecrated religious, through the ‘Kawsay’ network. Sr. Isabel Chávez, RGS, participates in this network which works towards a society free of human trafficking. (‘Kawsay’ a word from the Quechua language, means LIVE, integral development of life in its fullness, in harmony with all other beings of the cosmos). Therefore we speak of networks of life in all its forms, dimensions and existences. This relates to the spiritual, social, communal, economic and political spheres, i.e. it encompasses life, life in the most profound sense, and interconnectedness. Above all, it refers to processes.
THE COSMOLOGICAL SPIRITUALITY DE AGUCHITA
AND HER LOVE FOR MOTHER EARTH
“You visit the earth… You water its furrows abundantly, level its ridges, soften it with showers and bless its shoots.” (Psalm 63:9-10 NJB)
It was through contact with nature that Aguchita unwittingly developed a cosmic spirituality, “the desire to shepherd the creation of God” was her passion. It is no coincidence that she finally posthumously came in contact with nature in the Amazon.
Indeed, on 27th September, when she went out to pick lemons from the lemon trees to add a touch of flavour to the sweets she was making with the children and teenagers, she was met with threats, violence, terror… DEATH! And the ‘Pacha Mama’ the Great Mother who creates everything, nourishes and transforms, took her to her breast, not alone, but with her fellow missionaries.
The acute problem of pollution experienced in Peru today, especially in the mining areas, is awakening growing interest in an ecological culture, expressed in various ways through many projects. There is a great effort in our various apostolic services to help nature be reborn. For example we note the Pine Hill projects, where the sisters are applying themselves to various tasks with all their passion and creativity: creating organic gardens and green roofs, developing hydroponics/aquiculture, an alternative means of combatting hunger and poverty.
A wide field is opening up before our eyes and, as Aguchita has said, “I desire that all the reserves of my heart and my faculties be consumed in the apostolate; I desire to be wasted like the candle which illuminates and then diminishes.” (Personal notes of Aguchita)