267th Death Anniversary of Venerable Ignacia del Espiritu Santo September 10, 2015
By: S. Ma. Anicia B. Co, RVM

Mother Ignacia, the Hidden and Humble Servant

M. Ignacia resigned from the governance of the house and lived as an ordinary member until her death on September 10, 1748. She must have reached this decision through a painful process of discernment. Her companions might have urged her to continue in office until her death. She had to decide between her personal desire and the community’s expectation. Others might have thought that she was just being selfish in resigning from her responsibility. M. Ignacia learned through the years to listen to God’s voice and not bother so much with human respect. She must have realized that God wanted her to give up her position as Superior so that a new leadership could emerge and take shape. By hindsight, it could be considered as a wise, prudent and practical decision. M. Ignacia did not let the community wait for her death before they elected a new superior. This enabled a fairly smooth transition in the community. While she was still alive, she could guide both the leader and the community according to the spirit of the original foundation, in the spirit of hidden and humble service. After her death, the community survived because they had learned the way of M. Ignacia.

Murillo Velarde described M. Ignacia as a truly strong woman who overcame the great difficulties in the foundation “from the groundwork to the top of the pillar.” Her abdication from the office of superior was for Murillo Velarde a sign of her great humility. She had no desire to cling to power, to command or control. Such a desire was likened by Murillo Velarde to “a cancer that corrupts everything from the cedar to the hyssop.”

A ray of hope would shine on the beaterio a few months before M. Ignacia’s death. The Most Rev. Pedro de la Santisima Trinidad Martinez de Arizala, who became the archbishop of Manila on August 19, 1774, ordered a report through his vicar general Dr. Don Juan de la Fuente Yepes on the status of the Beaterio. The Archbishop was going to petition the King for Protection Civil for the Beaterio. Acting on this request, the notary Dean Jose Gallardo visited the Beaterio on July 13, 1748 and submitted his findings on July 15, 1748. The Archbishop, on July 19, 1748, signed a letter to Ferdinand VI, King of Spain, soliciting royal recognition for the beaterio. It took two years before the letter reached Madrid.

M. Ignacia died without knowing the response of the Spanish king but her long life in the Beaterio must have taught her to trust in the Providence of the good, gracious and loving God. M. Ignacia did not know that her beaterio would become a congregation that would survive through the centuries. The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the different organizations and associations inspired by her, are 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 peoples, of whatever color or race.

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