Ignacia del Espiritu Santo

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Ignacia del Espíritu Santo (born 1663 - died September 10, 1748) was the founder of the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus, which is the present-day Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM).

A statue of Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo located in a healing center named after her in Caloocan City. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Judge Florentino Floro)

Biography

Family

Mother Ignacia was born in Manila, Philippines in 1663. She is the daughter of Jusepe Iuco, a Chinese immigrant from Amoy, China, and of María Jerónima, a native Filipina. She was the eldest of four children.

Early life

Ignacia was baptized on March 4, 1663 at Holy Kings Parish, and spent her childhood in Binondo, Manila. She refused her parents' request to marry, instead she sought spiritual direction from Fr. Paul Klein, SJ, a Jesuit from Bohemia who arrived in Manila in 1682. The priest taught her about the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. After a period of solitude and prayer, Ignacia decided to "remain in the service of the Divine Majesty" and to "live by sweat of her brow." She left home and brought with her only a needle and a pair of scissors. She started to live alone in the house located at the back of the Jesuit College of Manila.

Founding of a new community

Her life of prayer and labor attracted yndias (natives) who also felt called to the religious life but could not be admitted into the existing religious congregation at that time. Mother Ignacia accepted these women into her company and a community of beatas or beaterio was born. The community was known as the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus because they frequently received the sacraments at San Ignacio Church. They performed many acts of devotion there, and had the Jesuit fathers as their spiritual directors and confessors. Mother Ignacia centered her life on the suffering of Christ and tried to imitate him through a life of service and humility. Her spirituality of humble service was expressed in her capacity to forgive, to bear wrongs patiently and to correct with gentleness and meekness. She also emphasized charity in the community which was dedicated to the Blessed Mother. The spirit of Mary runs through the rules which were written for the guidance of the beatas. She strove to be the living image of Mary to her companions and exhorted them to make Mary as their model in following Jesus. Mother Ignacia and the beatas were also involved in retreat work, and helped the Jesuit Fathers by preparing the retreatants to be disposed to the spiritual exercises. Mother Ignacia wrote the Constitutions of her community and submitted them for approval on July 1, 1726. After the approval was given in 1732 by the Fiscal Provisor of Manila, Mother Ignacia decided to give up her responsibility as superior of the house. She lived as an ordinary member until her death, which was seen by Fr. Murillo Velarde, SJ as a great sign of humility. In his estimation, Fr. Velarde said that she was a "true valiant woman" who overcome the great difficulties which she met in the foundation from the beginning to the end. She was "mortified, patient, devout, spiritual, zealous for the good of souls."

Death

At the ripe age of 85, Mother Ignacia died on her knees after receiving Holy Communion on September 10, 1748, and was interred at San Ignacio Church.

Legacy

The Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus founded by Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo in 1684 continues to exist today, more than 300 years after her death. This congregation is now known as the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RMV). The congregation is a living testimony to her life as God's handmaid who opened the door of religious life to native women in the Philippines. She proved that God is the God of all people, of whatever color or race. The growth of the beaterio into a congregation and its response to the apostolic challenges of the times show the vitality of the spirit of Mother Ignacia. The life of this lowly woman and the fruits of her spirituality proclaim the immense goodness of God whose generosity is unbounded. Mother Ignacia trusted in the loving providence of God and she was never disappointed.

The RVM Sisters currently administers schools, catechetical and hospital apostolates nationwide.

Reference

  • de Guzman,Jovita V.,Vicente A. Santiago,Remedios T. de Leon and Teresita E. Erestain. Women Of Distinction; Biographical Essays on Outstanding Filipino Women of the Past and the Present. Philippines: Bukang Liwayway, 1967.
  • Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo, History of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, UIC.edu.ph, retrieved on: June 17, 2007
  • Quirino, Carlos. Who's Who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.

Citation

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