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Ignacia del Espiritu Santo was born of a Chinese father, Jusepe Iuco, who was from Amoy China, and a Filipino Mother Maria Jeronima of Binondo, Manila. She was born when the Philippines was almost a century old as Spanish colony. It was an age when Christianity had hardly begun to take root in the hearts and lives of the people and when the social climate was characterized by social prejudice and discrimination.
Ignacia was baptized on March 4, 1663 at the Church of the Holy Kings of Parian by the Dominican missionary, Father Alberto Collares,O.P. It was customary among pious parents of the time to give their children devotional names at baptism. Her baptismal godmother was Catalina Malinang. Her surname "del Espiritu Santo" truly became real in her life, she was filled by the Holy Spirit. Every action and decision she did in her lifetime was fruits of prayers and constant seeking of God's will.
She was reared by loving and affluent parents. As a child, she could have everything she had wanted especially education, but women during their time were not treated as persons with equal opportunity to improve their social standing. But this did not hinder from obtaining an education which gave her lifetime learning. Her home became her school and her parents were her teachers. She was taught by them through examples. She had her share of work both in their house and in their business. There was no idle moment for her. She imbibed her father's hardwork, humility, patience and endurance along with her mother's strong faith in God, courage and simplicity. Ignacia grew up as a young lady imbued by the values of her parents. Her love of God was nurtured through her going to church and devotions to the Blessed Mother and the saints.
She was living a comfortable life and when she reached the age of twenty one, hr parents wanted her to marry a good young man of their choice. At this stage of her life Ignacia, defied the will of her parents. She prayed to God invoking the Holy Spirit to guide her to the path she may tread. She courageously told her parents of her decision to live a life of service to the Lord. She broke the custom which women of her time do-to-get married and stay at home.
Her decision was not done in haste. In prayer and solitude she went on a retreat with the guidance of Father Paul Klein, a Jesuit priest. From there she resolved to live by the sweat of her brow, despite the fact that she still had parents who could support her.
In 1684 she started to live a solitary life, which attracted other young women. This was the start of the foundation of a group of women, known as beatas. They lived an exemplary life of prayer and penance. They did not confine themselves in prayer; they were aware of what was happening outside. The social climate during that time was characterized by racial prejudice and discrimination. Living under such a climate Mother Ignacia together with her beatas started to seek the lord's will in the situation confronting them. Looking at the children who were just spending the day doing nothing and the women who were not given a place in the society, they involved themselves in the education of these less fortunate Filipinas. This act of Mother Ignacia was not done just to keep them busy, but a bold initiative towards the realization of the dream of a generation who is free, one who lives the truth, and will not be enslaved in his very own native land. This is also a radical move, because the religious life then, was in many ways monastic, therefore protected by convent walls and cloister grills. Mother Ignacia and her beatas did not conform the ways to "what is or what is expected" of religious women, rather she listened to the spirit, who directs her every action.
While doing their work outside, she and her beatas, continued living a frugal life. They existed almost only on rice and a little salt, eating under the moonlight to save oil for their lamps. With deep humility and full trust in God's loving Providence, coupled with their ingenuity and the resourcefulness of Gods' poor, they survived the challenges of life. In all these difficulties Mother Ignacia exhorted her companions to bear with constancy and make penance to move God to have mercy on them. Complete trust in God made them bear everything; in joy and in sorrow they praise Him.
Hardship did not diminish the love and courage of the beatas to go on serving God through the people. Their community even became bigger, as more young women wish to live the exemplary life of prayer and penance. Mother Ignacia herself bore heavy cross on her shoulders; sometimes she frustrated on the ground for others to step on her; she extended her arms in the form of a cross under the heat of the noonday sun. Her examples moved others to follow her, every night they used the discipline, slept very little and spent most of the night in prayer. But she advised them to moderate their discipline upon seeing that the rigors of their penance weakened them. Indeed, Mother Ignacia's concern for them is felt and seen. She's also a model of humble servanthood. She relinquished to Mother Dominga del Rosario the leadership of the foundation, then she took place among the ranks several years before she died.
Mother Ignacia died on September 10,1748 at the age of eighty five. At the time of her death she received the honor and recognition which was denied her during her lifetime.
Today Mother Ignacia lives in the spirit and heart of the RELIGIOUS OF THE VIRGIN MARY (RVM), a religious Congregation of women which started from her humble foundation. The sisters are actively participating in God's mission of proclaiming the Good News through the various apostolates: education, retreat movements, seminary, dormitory, and social ministries in the Philippines and overseas. Cardinal Pironio, on December 8, 1983 wrote the Superior General .. "The present flourishing state of the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary not only testifies to God's blessings on your institute, but also a proof that the foundation were solidly laid, that the members of the Institute are giving witness of a truly religious life, as well as fulfilling the service to the Church intended by Mother Ignacia.
Now her life is a source of inspiration to all the people who had shared and continues to share in her charism, the Religious of the Virgin Mary, and the people whose lives they touch. She is truly the light that illumines our way - the way which leads to God.