M. Ignacia del
Espiritu Santo was born, lived and died during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines . The precise date of her birth
is not known. Her baptismal record mentions only the date of her baptism, March 4, 1663 . This confirms the statement of Pedro
Murillo Velarde that Ignacia was 21 years old in 1684. Ignacia was the eldest and the sole surviving child of Maria Jeronima,
an yndia, and Jusepe Iuco, a pure Chinese immigrant from Amoy , China , who was converted to the Catholic faith in 1652 and
resided in Binondo, Manila.
was 21 years old, her parents wanted her to marry. Heeding a call deep within but not wanting to disappoint her parents, Ignacia
sought counsel from Fr. Paul Klein, a Jesuit priest from Bohemia who arrived in Manila in 1682. The priest gave her the Spiritual
Exercises of St. Ignatius. After this period of solitude and prayer, Ignacia decided to “remain in the service of the
Divine Majesty” and to “live by the sweat of her face.” 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. Her life
of prayer and labor attracted yndias who also felt called to the religious life but could not be admitted into the existing
congregation at that time. M. Ignacia accepted these women into her company and the first community was born. They became
known as the Beatas de la Compania de Jesus because they frequently received the sacraments at the Church of St. Ignatius
, performed many acts of devotion there and had the Jesuit fathers for their spiritual directors and confessors.
M. Ignacia centered
her life on the suffering Christ and tried to imitate him through a life of service and humility. She prayed earnestly to
God and performed penances to move God to have mercy on them. Her spirituality of humble service was expressed in her capacity
to forgive, to bear wrongs patiently and to correct with gentleness and meekness. This spirituality was manifest in peace
and harmony in the community, mutual love and union of wills, witnessing to the love of Christ and the maternal care of the
sustained the beatas 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. In all these, they did not cease to thank God and to trust in
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. Following the spirit of St. Ignatius, M. Ignacia exhorted her beatas to live always in the presence of God and
to develop great purity of heart. 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. In defining her style of leadership,
M. Ignacia drew inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary. She strove to be the living image of Mary to her companions and
exhorted them to take Mary as their model in following Jesus.
M. Ignacia gradually
realized that the beaterio was called by God not only to a life of prayer and penance but also to apostolic service. The beaterio
admitted young girls as boarders who were taught Christian doctrine as well as works proper to them. M. Ignacia did not make
any distinction of color or race but accepted yndias, mestizas and Spaniards as recogidas. The beatas were also involved in
retreat work and helped the Jesuit Fathers by preparing the retreatants to be disposed to the Spiritual Exercises.