María Felicia Guggiarri Echeverría, familiarly known as «Chiquitunga», was born on January 12th, 1925, in Villarrica del Espíritu Santo, Paraguay.
From a very young age, she demonstrated a great inclination to help the needs of the poorest and helpless. Her mother says that she was in charge of caring for people with limited resources who came to her house asking for some bread and help.
She received Baptism at 3 years, on February 8th, 1928, in the Cathedral of Villarrica. At age 12, on December 8th, 1937, she received the Blessed Sacrament for the first time. She recalled after several years that day with these words: “The memory of the happiest day of my life will never be erased from my mind, the day of the first union with my God, and the point where I take the resolution to be every day better and better “. In 1933 she began his primary education at the Maria Auxiliatrice School. She was a normal girl, cheerful, vivacious, and always very friendly with everyone.
After finishing primary school in the year 1939-40, he suspended the school for 2 years to help her mother with the housework. In the year 1941 she entered the ranks of the Catholic Action at the age of 16, being this movement of vital importance for her life. The love to the C.A. is reflected in her many writings,they are full of enthusiasm, love, passion for the ideal indicated by the C.A.She repeated continuously: «I want everything to be saturated with Christ and wherever it is leave a ray of his light». The motto of her life was: «I offer you everything, my Lord». This phrase headed all her writings.
In 1941: she continued her secondary studies at the Normal School of Professors Manuel Gondra, obtaining the Master’s Degree in 1945. In all this time she dedicated herself fully to active apostolate, leaving in this her childhood home unforgettable memories in all those who knew her and who, after opening the process of beatification and canonization, witnessed the tireless abnegation of Maria Felicia in her apostolate with the poorest. This is how they remember her: «She could be seen walking the streets in apostolic cares, the smile on the lips, the impeccably white overall and the braids tied in celestial bows. She was the figure of the compassionate angel who looked for tired souls, broken bodies, to give them the gift of a human sympathy, the warmth of the heart that she loves ».
Her life of piety was centralized in the Eucharist, daily attending to receive the «Bread of life», she spent long hours before the Blessed Sacrament, from which she drew the strength to carry out so much apostolate. Her brothers remember that at night Chiquitunga was still in her room on her knees submerged in deep prayer. Her love for the “Full of grace” her “Mother” is also reflected in her innumerable writings that are preserved.
In the year 1950: She moved with her family to Asunción, the political situation of Paraguay was marked by great turbulence and Villarrica was a conflict zone. So it was more prudent, the transfer to the capital. Chiquitunga just arrived; she enlisted again in the ranks of the C.A. and began to work with the enthusiasm that characterized her. Also she began the study of teachers, ending in 1952.
In this year she met Ángel Sauá Llanes, a young leader of Catholic action and a medical student, with whom he shared a deep friendship. This stage is full of a spiritual and human wealth that marks the life of Chiquitunga and demonstrates the spiritual wealth she possessed, living this situation of falling in love as a true grace of God, she herself had asked: «Many times I had conceived that now, Lord, it is wonderful reality: how beautiful it would be to have a love, to renounce that love and together to sacrifice it to the Lord for the ideal ». In his desire for total surrender and after discerning the will of God, he leaves for Europe and enters the Seminary. She, in her turn, follows the voice of God and providentially knows the prioress of the Discalced Carmelites. After tough family opposition, she entered Carmel on February 2nd, 1955, at 30 years old.
In the convent was characterized by her joy and helpfulness delivery, a sister remembers: The old religious say that Sister. Teresa de Jesus, one of the founders, used to say: «God sent us Sr. Maria Felicia to put a special note of joy, with her smile and her witticisms, in the narrowness of that first little house on August 15th». Her smile was a perennial flower.
The first days in the Convent she narrates them like this: «Exactly 18 days ago of constant and uninterrupted hours of joy in this Holy Carmel, in which God Our Lord, with infinite mercy, chose me, and I really tremble by saying this word, knowing me as miserable and sinful as I am.
Although the first months were months of heaven, she began to enter a dark night that led her to doubt her vocation and consider the possibility of retiring. Mother Teresa Margarita, prioress of that time, recounts: «Having overcome the difficult proof, she received the holy habit on August 14th, 1955, recovering since then a peace and happiness that would be increasing until the day of her happy death. And he made her temporary religious profession on August 15th, 1956 ».
TO THE CARMEL OF HEAVEN
But God had reserved another destiny for God’s servant. She only needed to prove an apostolate: that of patience in illness. She, who always believed that she had “an iron health”, began to feel a physical decay, overcoming the illness. But infectious hepatitis, which had already taken one of her sisters to the grave, forced her to intern in a Sanatorium in the city, in January 1959. She lived her last days with total abandonment to the will of God. That day she asks to read the poem of Saint Teresa of Jesus: «I die because I do not die». She stands up suddenly in her bed and exclaims: «JESUS, I LOVE YOU! THAT SWEET MEETING! VIRGIN MARY!» And Jesus takes her with Him. Her death was so resonant because she was so well known for her work in the Catholic Action.The sisters remember people arrived in caravans from all parts of the country, and they all said: A saint has died.
Her process began on December 13th, 1997, and on June 23th, she will be declared Blessed by the delegate of His Holiness Pope Francis, to the joy of all the people of God.