Religious of the Virgin Mary

Very Reverend Mother Maria Corazon D. Agda, RVM -Superior General (2016-2021)

The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (Spanish: La Cofradía de Hermanas de Religiosa de la Virgen María; postnominals: RVM) is an ecclesiastical community of avowed religious Filipino Roman Catholic women of pontifical right and approval founded in Manila, the Philippines. Founded in 1684 by the pious Filipina laywoman Venerable Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo, the congregation administers schools in the Philippines, and overseas in California and Hawaii in the United States.[1]


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.

Spanish Era

Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo began her arduous task in 1684. Directed by divine inspiration and the wise guidance of her spiritual director, the Czech priest, Rev. Fr. Pablo Clain, S.J. (also known as Fr. Paul Klein), 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 Jesús and Ana Margarita. This small group formed the nucleus of the Beatas de la Compania de Jesús which subsequently became the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary. Six other ladies joined the original four, increasing to 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 of different races: 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, Archbishop of Manila Juan Ángel Rodríguez, OST, 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 10 September 1748, at the age of 85. Tradition states she had died on her knees at the altar rail of the old Jesuit Church of St. Ignatius in Intramuros, the place where the Cuartel de España was later built, and which became the 31st American Infantry Headquarters before the Second World War. The site is now occupied by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Venerable Mother Ignacia did not live to witness King Ferdinand VI of Spain granted protección civil to the Congregation on 25 November 1755, for the petition was formally sent by Archbishop of Manila Pedro de la Santísima Trinidad Martínez de Arizala, OFM, 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 in 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 Misión de la Compania de Jesús by the P. Pablo Pastells, SJ, 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 beata remained more as a connotation than the common address given to the Sisters. The period between 1872 and 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 in 1874. Some Muslims were hostile to the nuns, and burnt the mission orphanage, with one of the Sisters was mortally wounded when an assailant ran amok. In spite of constant dangers, the Sisters established themselves in other towns where the Jesuits were stationed. The Dapitan mission opened in 1880, Dipolog in 1892, Zamboanga in 1894, and Surigao together with Lubungan and Butuan in 1896.

The Philippine Revolution of 1896 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.

American period and World War II

On 21 June 1902, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, Most Reverend Martin García Alocer, approved the Congregation's petition to convene members from the different mission stations for the purpose of electing a Mother General. In the same year, Mother María Efigenia Álvarez 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 10 July 1938, and Rev Mother María Andrea Montejo was appointed by the Holy See to succeed her in governing the twenty-six houses the Congregation had throughout the country

On 1 October 1939, with the combined efforts of the Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines, Monsignor Guglielmo Piani, Archbishop of Manila Michael J. O'Doherty, and the S.V.D. Fathers, the Holy See granted canonical permission to the Congregation to transfer the Novitiate from Parañaque, Rizal (now Parañaque City) to its present site at Quezon City.

17 March 1907 marked a milestone on the onward march of the Congregation toward its goal to full Pontifical status. Pope Saint 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 24 March 1931. This Decree elevated the Congregation to Pontifical status. Bombardment during the Second World War destroyed the Intramuros Motherhouse together with nine other houses of the Congregation.


The Philippines regained full sovereignty from the United States of America on 4 July 1946, with the establishment of the Third Philippine Republic. Almost two years later on 12 January 1948 (the 200th death anniversary of the holy Foundress), Pope Pius XII issued the Decree of Definitive Pontifical Approbation of the Constitutions, placing the Congregation directly under Rome.

Rev Pedro Vidal, SJ, 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 Luís del Rosario, SJ, DD, then serving as Apostolic Visitator of the Congregation, played a vital role in the process which led to the granting of the final Decree.

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 the 1,500 miles from northern Luzon to southern Mindanao. By 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.

On 18 July 2009, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California, the Religious of the Virgin Mary, (RVM), celebrated their 50th (Golden) Jubilee.

Mother Ignacia's status

On 6 July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI declared the Foundress, Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, a Venerable of the Roman Catholic Church.

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

RVM Motherhouse

Current Motherhouse in Quezon City.

The Motherhouse in Quezon City is a successor to the first Motherhouse in Intramuros, which had existed since the foundation of the Congregation in 1684 up to its destruction with the rest of city during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. For some time during and after the War, the Motherhouse used to be situated on Espania Street, Manila. In 1950, 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.

RVM Seal

Seal of the Congregation.

The official seal of the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary is characteristically Marian, drawn from the image of the Woman of the Apocalypse. Encircled by rays which represent the far-reaching zeal and charity, the central device is the A and M monogram representing the words Auspice Maria ("under the guidance of Mary"; commonly called the "Ave Maria"). Surrounding the Auspice Maria are twelve stars which stand for the twelve privileges of Mary, the Mother of God, through which people receive of her special and maternal blessings. Rays emanate from the starry monogram in seven groups, representing the graces that come from Jesus through Mary and reflect the Congregation's motto, "To Jesus through Mary".

Under the monogram is an open book bearing the Latin inscription, Ad Jesum Cum Maria, which translates "To Jesus with Mary". Immediately below the open book is the angular façade of the original, pre-War Beaterio in Intramuros. 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 Beaterio is a sprig of sampaguita (J. sambac), which has been the national flower of the Philippines since 1934. It stands for the Filipino origin and character of the Congregation, as well as its mission of serving the country and compatriots overseas.

See also


  1. History of the Religious of the Virgin Mary,, retrieved on: June 17, 2007
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