Religious of the Virgin Mary
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The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary is an ecclesiastical community of vowed religious Roman Catholic women of pontifical right and approval founded in Manila, Philippines. The community was founded in 1684 by Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo, a Filipino Roman Catholic pious laywoman. While its official Spanish title was La Cofradia de Hermanas de Religiosa de la Virgen Maria, the post-nominal initials of a member of the Congregation are "R.V.M." The congregation administers schools in the Philippines and in the states of California and Hawaii in the United States.
History of the Congregation
The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the oldest and largest Filipino congregation, is the first all-Filipino religious congregation for women in the Philippines founded in 1684 by a Filipina, Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo.
A congregation of a mixed life, it aims primarily at personal sanctification and perfection. Its secondary aims include laboring for the sanctification and salvation of others through Catholic education of 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.
Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, began her arduous task in the year 1684. Directed by divine inspiration and the wise guidance of her spiritual director, Father Paul Klein, S.J., Ignacia at the age of twenty-one left her family and friends, and gave herself without reserve entirely to the service of God by founding an institute whose first members were her own self, her niece Cristina Gonzales, and two young girls, Teodora de Jesus and Ana Margarita. This small group formed the nucleus of the Beatas de la Compania de Jesus which subsequently became the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary. Six other ladies joined the original four, and before long there were thirty-three members. The piety and penance of Mother Ignacia so attracted many that by 1748 the group numbered fifty. They had charge of the educational training of forty-five girls — Filipinas (Indias), Spaniards, and mestizas. While brought up in the fear and love of God, these girls were trained in the domestic arts and skills of reading, sewing, and embroidery.
While the growing number of generous souls were known as beatas which was then taken to mean "holy" or "saintly" because they were leading a life of great edification, there is no existing evidence as to how they were later to be addressed as Sor or Madre.
The house where the beatas lived was called House of Retreat because it was here that retreats and days of recollection were conducted for women desiring to make them. Mother Ignacia initiated this practice of spiritual recollection, and she herself started the retreat movement among women. An energetic woman of rare qualities gifted with an inspiring personality, coupled with a generous amount of common sense in dealing with people, her example was her main asset in attracting other women to follow her way of life which was one of abnegation and sacrifice.
In 1732, the Archbishop of Manila approved the policies and rules in use among the members of the community.
Quietly as she had lived her whole life, Mother Ignacia died on September 10, 1748 at the age of eighty-five. It is traditionally held that the holy Foundress died on her knees at the communion rail of the old Jesuit church of St. Ignatius at Intramuros, the place where the Cuartel de Espana was later built, and which became the 31st American Infantry Headquarters before World War II. The area is now occupied by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.
Venerable Mother Ignacia did not live to enjoy the day when King Ferdinand IV of Spain granted proteccion 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.
During the period from 1748 to 1770, the beatas continued in their unobtrusive way of helping the Jesuit Fathers conduct spiritual retreats. They did not limit their apostolic work within Manila alone; they went out to the different provinces of Luzon in groups of two or more whenever circumstances permitted. Their untiring, self-sacrificing efforts were compensated when many men and women who had stayed from the Sacraments for twenty, thirty, forty years returned to the fold.
In the account from the Mision de la Compania de Jesus by P. Pablo Pastells, S.J., the beatas were referred to for the first time as Sisters when they set sail for Tamontaca in Cotabato in 1874. From then on, the name beatas remained more as a connotation than the common address given to the Sisters. The period covered from 1872 through 1900 was one characterized by the establishment of the first missions in Mindanao. Inhabited by non-Christians, Mindanao was an island which could be reached only after two or three months travel by sea.
The first mission was established at Tamontaca, Cotabato in 1874. It is sad to recall that some hostile Moslems burned down the mission orphanage and one of the Sisters was mortally wounded by a juramentado. In spite of the constant dangers, the Sisters established themselves in other towns where the Jesuits were stationed. Dapitan mission opened in 1880, Dipolog in 1892, Zamboanga in 1894, and Surigao together with Lubungan and Butuan in 1896.
The Philippine Revolution and the Spanish-American War brought untold sufferings and privations to the Sisters in Mindanao. They, however, worked in hospitals taking care of the wounded. When peace was restored, they returned to their mission stations in Mindanao and opened new schools in Luzon and in the Visayas.
The apostolic administrator of the Manila archdiocese, Most Reverend Martin Garcia Alocer, on June 21, 1902 approved the petition of the Sisters to gather all the members from the different mission stations for the purpose of electing a Mother General. In the same year, Mother Maria Efigenia Alvarez, a native of Ermita, Manila, was elected the first Mother General in a General Chapter.
With the new Mother General an era of expansion and progress began. Many houses were opened; consequently, there arose a great demand for Sisters who could teach. With her characteristic zeal and motherly prudence, Mother Efigenia encouraged the Sisters to pursue higher studies at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in order that they might be the better prepared for the work awaiting them. During her administration ten extant houses, schools, and dormitories were founded. Several other lesser houses were opened, but due to unfavorable circumstances, had to be closed later. In 1938, Mother Efigenia, who was then eighty years of age, and who had been Mother General for almost thirty years (after four reelections), sought special permission from the Holy See to be relieved of her position although her term of office had not yet expired. Her request was granted on July 10, 1938, and Rev. M. Maria Andrea Montejo was appointed by the Holy See to succeed her.
On October 1, 1939, with the combined efforts of the Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines, Monsignor Guglielmo Piani, Archbishop Michael J. O'Doherty of Manila, and the S.V.D. Fathers, the Holy See granted canonical permission to the Congregation to transfer the Novitiate from Paranaque, Rizal to its present site at Quezon City.
March 17, 1907 marked a milestone on the onward march of the Congregation toward its goal to full Pontifical status. Pope Pius X, now St. 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 the holy Foundress, Pope Pius XII issued the Decree of Definitive Pontifical Approbation of the Constitutions. Such signal honor placed the Congregation directly under Rome.
Rev. Pedro Vidal, S.J., Consultor for the Society of Jesus in the Sacred Congregation of Religious, represented the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary at the signing of the Decree in 1948. Archbishop of Zamboanga Luis del Rosario, S.J., D.D., then serving as Apostolic Visitator of the Congregation, played a vital role in the process which led to the granting of the final Decree. In 1938, the Congregation had twenty-six houses throughout the country. World War II (1941-45) destroyed the Motherhouse at Intramuros together with nine other houses of the Congregation.
Today, the R.V.M. Sisters work throughout the Philippine archipelago. The work has grown enormously in post-war years. Fifty-seven schools and sixteen other houses dot 1,500 miles from northern Luzon to southern Mindanao. At the present time, 1963, the Congregation numbers 483 professed Sisters, 40 novices, and 9 postulants. For the most part, education work and the retreat movement are a common endeavor of the Congregation, but the apostolate also includes conducting seven dormitories, one hospital, and a house overseas in Sacramento, California, as well as a Convent at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Daly City, California, U.S.A.
In July 18, 2009, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California, the Religious of the Virgin Mary, (RVM), celebrated their 50th (Golden) Jubilee.
The servant of God, Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, Foundress of the Congregation of the Regligious of the Virgin Mary, is found to possess 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. -
Benedictus XVI, Papam Sanctitam
Decretum Super Virtutibus, datum July 6, 2007
The Motherhouse at Quezon City owes its origin to the first Motherhouse at Intramuros, Manila which had existed since the foundation of the Congregation in 1684 up to the time when it was totally destroyed during the Second World War (1941-45).
For some time during and after the War, the Motherhouse used to be situated on Espafia Street, Manila. In 1950, however, it was definitely transferred to Quezon City where it stands to this day.
At present the Motherhouse compound covers an area of more than five hectares. In the compound stand the chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption blessed and inaugurated in 1950, St. Mary's Novitiate, the Motherhouse and the Juniorate, and the Infirmary. A few meters away from the main gate stands the three-storey Betania Retreat House, and close by is Luzon Regional Residence.
The Motherhouse, as the word signifies, is regarded by the Sisters as a real mother, which in fact it is. Not only does it generate and nurture their spiritual lives to the happy days of Final Vows, but also retains an abiding love for the children who have gone out to the Missions, and which for them always means Home and all that that glorious word signifies.
The bond between the Motherhouse and the Missions remains real and strong. As each group of Sisters starts out on a new venture for a new assignment, Home, with all the solicitude of a mother, anticipates and provides the hundred little necessary things that go into homemaking.
At the close of each school year, the Sisters are welcomed back to the quiet and peace of Home, there to make the annual eight-day retreat, as well as to renew body and soul in preparation for the assignment of active service in carrying on the work of Christ.
When over the years, the diminishing physical powers give warning that the journey's end is drawing nigh, Home, the powerhouse of prayer, welcomes them as tried veterans who have fought nobly and well and cares for their bodies and souls. Having given the best years of their lives to God and country, they are housed at the Infirmary. While in peaceful retirement from their labors in the Lord's vineyard, they dedicate the remaining years of their lives to the task of imploring God's grace and mercy for all the Sisters of the Congregation and the thousands of souls entrusted to their care.
On the other hand, the hundreds of Sisters laboring in the field are loyal daughters of Home. The joys of Home are theirs; her hour of trial and sorrow is shared by them. The loyal adherence they have given to the customs and the spirit of that Home in which the first happy years of their religious life were spent is the finest flower of their devotion.
May this bond between the Motherhouse and the Missions, which was first forged by the pioneer Sisters with the purpose of fashioning the Congregation into one holy religious family, never fail. May this bond that has proved the power of united action in the Congregation's achievements for the greater honor and glory of God never be less strong than in this 279th year. May those Sisters of the long tomorrow who will carry on to the tricentenary of the foundation regard the bond as a holy heritage to be cherished and safeguarded until the last member of the Congregation militant shall have completed the ranks of the Congregation gloriously triumphant.
The official seal of the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary is characteristically Marian. Encircled by rays which represent the far-reaching zeal and charity with which the Congregation functions in its apostolate, the central motif is the Ave Maria. The rays here also represent the graces that come from Jesus through the hands of Mary and very aptly brings forward the motto of the Congregation, To Jesus through Mary.
Crowning the Ave Maria motif are the twelve stars drawn from the Apocalypse which stand for the twelve privileges of Mary, the Mother of God, through which privileges all children of Mary become recipients of her special and maternal blessings.
Like the description of St. John's vision in the Apocalypse, the Ave Maria motif is further accented by the crescent moon which is also another symbol of Mary. The moon as a contrast to the sun is reminiscent of Mary's humility. The sun represents Jesus as the Sun of Justice, while the moon is the planet which emanates its mellow light only because the sun provides the light. And that is Mary. She shone and she shines only because Jesus, her God and her Son, makes her shine.
Dominating the whole seal is the angular facade of the Beaterio, the pre-war Motherhouse of the Congregation situated at Intramuros, which was totally destroyed during World War II. Its massive solidity stands for the strength and the spirit of unity which typified the moving force which led Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, Foundress of the Congregation, to found the first Filipino congregation of women in the Philippines.
Below the picture of the Beaterio is the Latin inscription, Haec Domus Mea, which means "This is My House." Indeed, this is the Lord's House because in it was formed a religious house where Filipinas who heard the Call and who gave up home, relatives, friends, and worldly comfort in order to live wholly and entirely for God, congregated to live a life of dedication and consecration.
Immediately below the Latin inscription is the white sampaguita flower, the national flower of the Philippines. It stands for the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the first all-Filipino congregation founded by a Filipina, Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, having for its members brown Filipinas possessing the Filipino soul and the Filipino heart, working for their Filipino brothers in their own land as well as in foreign shores
- History of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, UIC.edu.ph, retrieved on: June 17, 2007