Francisca del Espiritu Santo
Mother Francisca del Espiritu Santo (1647-1711) which was then known as Francisca de Fuentes, was a Spanish Dominican who was admitted as tertiary in 1682. She was the founder of the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Sena, and was its first prioress.
As founder of a beaterio
A young widow, Francisca dedicated her time to prayer and social service helping the poor and sick in the city of Manila. She prostrated herself before St. Dominic, where in a vision where she saw St. Francis and St. Dominic. When she became a Dominican tertiary, she chose the name "Francisca del Espiritu Santo."
With her blood-sisters Antonia de Jesus Esguerra and Maria Ana de Fuentes, along with Sebastiana Salcedo, she requested that they be allowed to live together in a life of prayer and in the practice of virtue while continuing their social mission. With hesitation, their request was approved on 11 January 1688 in Rome. However, when Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo, OP took over the position of Fr. Juan de Santa Maria, OP who had favored the request, it was laid aside. Francisca brought the request before him once more and boldly said, "Father Prior, the beaterio will be established, and Your Reverence will see it."
Fr. Santo Domingo established the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina de Sena, which was formally inaugurated in 1696 on the feast of St. Anne. On this occasion, Mother Francisca was appointed its first prioress for life. But in 1703, Manila Archbishop Don Diego Camacho wanted the beaterio to be under his jurisdiction. The beatas were put under interdict, removed their habits, and were brought into exile at the Santa Potenciana College. This unfortunate event was dubbed as the beatas' "Babylonian Exile."
Francisca suffered the most under these trials, but with courage, she and the other sisters continued to live their religious life. In 1109, Archbishop Camacho became sympathetic to the beatas and they returned to take on their Dominican habits once more. With her in her return were 15 Spanish sisters - novices, lay sisters, and a girl who eventually donned the habit. The beaterio became a beaterio colegio that admitted Spanish girls, mestizas and natives, which were taught religion, reading, writing, arithmetic, music, embroidery, flower making, among others.
In the absence of a chapel for the Blessed Sacrament, she requested the Dominicans of San Juan de Letran College to build a corridor connecting the beaterio to the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of Letran.
The beaterio eventually became the present-day Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena.
Francisca was born in Intramuros, Manila in 1647 to Don Simon de Fuentes, a Spanish and Ana Maria del Castillo y Tamayo, a Spanish mestiza. After a brief marriage, she was widowed without children. She died on 24 August 1711. Her tomb was placed over the steps of the main altar on the Gospel side of the chapel of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
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