|Venerable Ignacia del Espiritu Santo|
|founder, Religious of the Virgin Mary|
|Born||February 1, 1663, Binondo, Manila, Philippines|
|Died||September 10, 1748, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Major shrine||Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, RVM Motherhouse|
|Feast||September 10, March 4|
Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo is a Filipina Venerable of the Roman Catholic Church. She lead a religious life in 1684 and the founder of Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus, now known as Congregation of the Sisters of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), the first Filipino congregation for religious women in the Philippines. 
Ignacia Del Espiritu Santo was born in February 1, 1663 and was the eldest and sole surviving child of Doña Maria Jeronima and Don Jusepe Iuco, a migrant Chinese from Amoy, China. She was 21 years old when her parents wanted her to marry. Wishing to follow a monastic life though not wanting to disappoint her parents, Ignacia del Espiritu Santo sought religious counsel from Father Paul Klein, a Jesuit priest from Bohemia. The priest gave her the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius from which Ignacia drew her religious devotion and piety. After this period of solitude and prayer, Ignacia finally decided to pursue a monastic life and to “remain in the service of the Divine Majesty” and to “live by the sweat of her brow.” Legend states that she left her parent's home with only a needle and a pair of scissors.
Ignacia del Espiritu Santo began to live alone in a vacant house located at the back of the Colegio Jesuita de Manila, the headquarters of Jesuits in Manila. She devoted a life of public prayer and labor which attracted other women to the religious life at a time when Filipinos could not be allowed into religious life. Mother Ignacia accepted these women into her company of other religious women. Though they were not officially recognized as a convent at the time, together they became known as the Beatas de la Compañía de Jesús. They frequently received the sacraments at the Church of St. Ignatius, performed many acts of public devotion there and went to the Jesuit Fathers for spiritual direction and confession.
Mother Ignacia centered her life on the suffering of Jesus Christ through public service and humility. It was said that she prayed earnestly to God and performed many penances to move God to have mercy on them.
This penitential spirituality sustained the other women in their moments of difficulties especially during times of extreme poverty, when they even had to beg for rice and salt and scour the streets for firewood. The beatas continued to support themselves by the labor of their hands and sometimes received some financial help from pious people.
The growing number of beatas called for a more stable lifestyle and a set of rules. A daily schedule was drawn up and community practices were defined. The association only admitted young girls and boarders who were taught Christian doctrine as well as works proper to them. Mother Ignacia did not make any distinction of color or race but accepted all women from all races and walks of life.
In 1726, Ignacia submitted the constitutions of the Beaterio to the Archdiocesan Office of Manila for ecclestiastical approval. The approval was granted in 1732 by the Fiscal Provisor of Manila after which Ignacia decided to give up her responsibility as Superior of the house. She lived as an ordinary member until her death in September 10, 1748. King Ferdinand IV of Spain granted protection civil to the Congregation on November 25, 1755, a petition formally sent by Archbishop Arizala of Manila to the king two months before her death. King Ferdinand did not recognize them officially a convent of religious women. It was only ordained to remain as a pious association of faithful women.
History of the Congregation
The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary is the the oldest and largest Filipino congregation, founded in 1684 by Ignacia del Espiritu Santo is the first all-Filipino religious congregation for women in the Philippines. Its duties included laboring for the sanctification of men and women through the Roman Catholic Church, expansion of Catholic education for the youth and catechetical instruction in parishes, as well as fostering spiritual retreats among lay women, conducting dormitories, and taking care of the sick in hospitals.
In 1732, the Archbishop of Manila approved the Rules then in use among the other religious women. Mother Ignacia had the consolation of seeing the steady growth of her small band of members. Ignacia del Espiritu Santo died in September 10, 1748 at the age of eighty-five. Legend states that she died on her knees at the communion rail of the old Jesuit church of St. Ignatius at Intramuros.
In March 17, 1907, Pope Pius X, promulgated the Decree of Praise in favor of the congregation's Rules and Constitutions. The Decree of Approbation was granted by Pope Pius XI on March 24, 1931. This Decree elevated the Congregation to Pontifical status. Finally, on January 12, 1948, the 200th anniversary of the death of Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, Pope Pius XII issued the Decree of Definitive Pontifical Approbation of the Constitutions.
Beatification / Canonization
In a decree dated July 6, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the findings of the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and declared that “the Servant of God, Ignacia, foundress of the Religious of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is found to possess to a heroic degree the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity toward God and neighbor, as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude.”
- ↑ Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo, History of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, UIC.edu.ph, retrieved on: June 17, 2007