Tag Archives: Philippines

Francisca del Espiritu Santo Fuentes—The Young Widow Founded a new Order in the Philippines for Filipinos

Venerable Francisca del Espiritu Santo                                       youtube.jpg

By Larry Peterson

Francisca de Fuentes was born in Manila in 1647. Her father was Don Simon de Fuentes, a Spanish nobleman and her mom’s name was Dona Ana Maria del Castillo y Tamayo. She was a true native to the islands and was quietly known as a Spanish mestiza (a woman of mixed race).

Francisca’s parents raised her into a  true lady, and when she was around nineteen, she was given in marriage to a young man who took ill and passed away shortly after the wedding. Suddenly, she was a twenty-year-old widow with no children, and in 1667 Manila, that was not a good position to be in. A caste society existed, and widowed women, especially a mestiza woman, did not fare well being in such a position.

However, Francisca was a woman of deep faith. She was able to peel back the cloud of her grief and glimpse the silver lining that led her closer to God. He was calling her, and she delved deeply into prayer and began helping as many poor and sick in the city that she could.

It was the 17th century, and in the colonial  Philippines,  women were far from being liberated. Francisca was also a mestiza, which put her in a “class” below the pure Spaniard. She wanted to start a religious order for Filippino women. However, she would be confronting a daunting challenge to do so. It would be a man’s world she needed permission from.

She then had a vision of St. Dominic and St. Francis. Both were calling her and she had to choose. She bowed before St. Dominic and chose to be a Dominican. In 1682 she was admitted as a Third Order Dominican and picked the name of “Francisca del Espiritu Santo.”

She was joined by her sister, Maria Ana de Fuentes, Sebastiana Salcedo, and Antonia de Jesus Esquerra. The four lived separately but wore their habits in public, helping the sick and needy and spending hours together in prayer. They became known as “beatas” (blessed) because they frequented the sacraments and set fine examples of humility and devotion.

In 1686, Francisca sent a request to the Director of the Third Order asking if she and the other tertiaries could live together. The four sisters prayed long and hard, fasted, and did penance that their prayers might be answered. On January 11, 1688, the Master of the Order, Father Antonino Cloche, OP, confirmed and approved an order establishing that a house for sisters of the third order be established in Manila.

One of the original tertiaries, Antonio de Jesus Fuentes, was ill and dying and bequeathed her house to the others. She appointed Father Juan de Sto. Domingo, OP, as executor. Upon her death, they moved into their first official convent, known as a “beaterio.”

The order grew, and on July 26, 1696, the feast of St. Anne, the beatas professed to the Order of Preachers, under a rule drafted by Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo. Sister Francisca de Fuentes was appointed the first prioress and the convent was called the Beaterio de Santa  Catalina de Sena (Convent of St. Catherine of Siena).

In 1697, the new Archbishop of Manila, Diego Camacho y Avila, arrived. This became known as the “Visitation Controversy” because he decreed that the local bishops take charge of the parishes within their jurisdiction. This created much friction among the religious in the Philippines and they rose up in protest against the new rules. Caught up in this controversy was Sister Francisca and her followers.

The controversy grew into accusations of improper behavior, administrative incompetence, and other things. It was so bad that to avoid further scandal, the Dominican friars dispensed the beatas from their vows and sought shelter for them as secular women. They were sent to the College of St. Potenciana where they were to seek “absolution from the archbishop” and wait for the return of their beaterio.

In 1706, after many letters and petitions and negotiations by intermediaries, the Archbishop restored the Beaterio to full participation, under the Third Order of St. Dominic. It had taken nine years, but Sister Francisca and the beatas were restored to their rightful place among the Dominicans.

Sister Francisca made the Holy Eucharist the center of the community’s spiritual life and under her motherly watch the beaterio grew, and many young, native girls began joining the order. Today the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena has  locations all over the world.

Sister Francisca del Espiritu Santo passed away on August 24, 1711, at the age 64. She was declared Venerable by Pope Francis on July 5, 2019.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Venerable Mother Rosario Arroyo—She gave away her wealth and spent her life serving the poor

Mother Maria Rosario of the Visitation      en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019