mfanimated 2

Article Index



1. Humility

Mother Francisca was a woman who courageously and simply expressed what inspired her but at the end she humbly submitted to the will of her superiors. The last test of her humility was at her deathbed. Her first act of humility was, when she asked pardon from all her daughters as well as from her confessor and spiritual director, Fr. J. de Santo Domingo. But what offenses could she have committed against her sisters? Was it because she admonished them or scolded them because of their lack of spiritual devotion that caused them repugnance in their activities of the Beaterio or even missed community prayers? Could it be possible that all these could have caused them pain? Or some negligences on her part as Prioress?

For all these pains she caused, she asked for pardon humbly from her daughters and from Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo.

But for Fr. Santo Domingo such gesture of asking pardon was not enough. He told her that she should also pardon those who offended her.

For Mother Francisca she must have forgiven them without them asking pardon from her – those who bore ill-feelings against her, those who complained about her, those who were dissatisfied with her and even disobeyed her especially while in Sta. Potenciana.

Her answer then to Fr. J. de Santo Domingo: “Nobody offended me”. However, Fr. J. Santo Domingo insisted and that she would do it in a loud voice. Humbly she obeyed.

2. Religious Observance

Mother Francisca, even before becoming the Prioress of the Beaterio was already conscious of her first duty that of being a good Christian faithful to God’s law of love. When she made her profession, she accepted the Rule and pledge obedience. She and the Beatas started to observe the Rule from the hour of Compline in their Oratory.

Mother Francisca manifested great zeal in the observance of the rules and for the greater honor and glory of God, so that her opinions were highly regarded even in the admission of candidates requesting the habit of the Order.

The Lord permitted that the Beaterio and its Prioress undergo the most terrible trials before they achieved a certain kind of security. The Beaterio was closed and Mother Francisca and the Beatas were confined in Colegio de Sta. Potenciana. Their habits had been removed amidst copious tears capable to moving the most hard-hearted. Nevertheless, she did not weaken in such a difficult situation nor lose tranquility of soul, nor presence of mind, nor did she slacken in the regular observance of her duties. She did not consent to the neglect of the observance of the rules of the community.

According to Fr. Francisco Gaínza, OP, in his Milicia: “It is easy to understand the life which Francisca could lead once she was enclosed in the Beaterio, center of her most ardent vows. In religious observance she was excellent. She was austere with herself, kind to others and charitable to all. She was an indefatigable worker and an inexorable promoter of regular observance.

Observing the Rule of the Third Order to the letter, not only did she subdue her body by fast, prayers, mortifications, and abnegation of her own will, but she also raised her indefatigable soul to the pinnacle of perfection.

Indeed she was not only a lover of regular observance but also its guardian as shown in governance as Prioress of the Beaterio.

3. Determination/Persistence

This virtue of Mother Francisca led to two significant events that brought the Beaterio de Santa Catalina to what it is now, the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, a gift to the Church for the past 315 years.

3.a. From idea to reality

Francisca de Fuentes donned the habit of St. Dominic in 1682 and was joined by Antonia Esguerra, Sebastiana Salcedo, and Maria Ana de la Vega. They were known as Beatas. They requested the Dominican Fathers through the Prior, Fr. Juan de Sta.Maria and Fr. Barolome Marron, the ex-Prior of Santo Domingo that they be allowed to live together in a community. Their request was granted in 1686 with the confirmation of the Acts of the Province and Master General of the Order approved it on January 11, 1688.

In 1690, the Beatas pressed the new Prior, Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo about the building of a Beaterio but the latter did not approve of the idea because of the difficulty of sustaining a community. The Beatas, especially Mother Francisca persistently brought up the topic to no avail. This led her to courageously tell the Prior that “P. Prior, el Beaterio se ha de hacer y Vuestra Paternidad lo ha de ver.”
Due to the determination and persistence and tears and prayers of Mother Francisca for many years, the Prior Provincial relented and the Beaterio became a reality on July 26, 1696 thus the first Philippine religious community.
In 1706, the Beaterio became the first institiution in the Philipppines for the Christian education mainly of young native girls which include the teaching of the three Rs: Religion, Arithmetic, Writing and eventually Music, Arts, Flower-making, etc.

3.b. from desire to completion

In 1706, upon their return to the Beaterio from the two years and 3 months exile in Santa Potenciana, Mother Francisca intensely desired to have the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel which she asked very humbly from the Archbishop. But Archbishop Camacho did not grant it.

When Archbishop Francisco de la Cuesta, the new archbishop came to visit them for the first time, Mother Francisca made the request again with so much persistence. However, Fr. J. de Santo Domingo being present gave her signs to abandon the topic. Realizing that she could not succeed in getting it, she thought of having a passage to the church of San Juan de Letran. She told Fr. Juan but he did not agree with the plan for reasons of his own.

Mother Francisca was silent for sometime. When Fr. J. Sto. Domingo finished his term, again she started more urgently to tell him about the passage even to the extent of telling him that she heard sounds near the head-board of her bed, which was in front of the choir of San Juan de Letran. But Fr. J. Sto. Domingo who did not pay attention to revelations he thought that those noises were products of her imagination. However, her desire to have the Blessed Sacrament was not weakened in the least.

Mother Francisca thought of telling the new Provincial about the project, who received it well. She even told him about the noises. She spoke to Licentiate Asturis who was sympathetic to her, and who obtained the license from the Governor very easily. Meanwhile, Fr. Provincial spoke to the Archbishop and the latter agreed. Then Fr. J. Sto. Domingo spoke to the authorities of the City, the councilmen and the alcaldes.

Fr. Juan, who opposed the construction of the passageway from the Beaterio to the Choir of the Church of San Juan de Letran, was the one who carried out the plans until its completion.

For Mother Francisca, the passageway is a symbol of her great love for Jesus in the Eucharist which held a central position in her spirituality. Her ardent desire to have the Beatas lived intimately with Jesus made it possible for the Beaterio to be present to His Church and her mission for the past 315 years.

4. Mortification / Penance

Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo in his Breve wrote clearly of how Mother Francisca practiced this virtue from the time a community was formed until her death.

The year 1694, the house of Antonia was no longer big for five Beatas. The Dominican Fathers bought the dilapidated house adjoining it. It was renovated, walls were built around the yard, an altar was framed and a neat and spacious oratory was formed. Seeing the oratory, Mother Francisca ordered that the Rosary be prayed by the community in the morning, at one o’clock during the day followed by mental prayer and the spiritual exercises lasted until three o’clock. The Rosary was also prayed at night and at midnight they rose up for mental prayer.

These spiritual exercises became a regular community horario before their exile at Santa Potenciana in the year 1704.

After the Beatas’ exile in Sta. Potenciana, they returned to the Beaterio to start all over again. The sufferings at Sta. Potenciana and the rigors of community life at the Beaterio intensified by her own penance, fasting and mortification resulted in a sickness which kept Mother Francisca in bed for many months.

Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo observed that, “although she was not yet 64 years old, externally she looked more than 70 years”. Despite her weakness, she would still force herself to go down to the church to receive Holy Communion until such time when she could no longer rise from bed and therefore, Fr. Juan de Sto. Domingo would go to her room and celebrate Holy Mass. Fr. J. Sto. Domingo writes: “She received the Lord with supreme joy” amidst suffering and pain.

5. Sensitiveness

Mother Francisca was a woman who so aware of the poor social conditions of her time responded with compassion.

Francisca grew up in a milieu of the 17th and 18th century Manila (Intramuros) beset with two prominent social disorders: poverty and lack of education for poor young native girls. These two social conditions of the time in particular in Manila were caused by: 1. many poor soldiers married to natives were at the service of the king and when they die they leave their daughters in very miserable state. Furthermore, having been orphaned, they almost lived in the streets or main doors of the houses of other people exposed to many danger of losing themselves; 2. There was no house yet founded with the intention to educate the poor young Indians.

It can already be identified that Mother Francisca even still as a widow was conscious of the needs of the poor so much so that she would deprive herself of what were necessary to be able to give them to the needy.

However, when the opportune time came for her to serve the young, she readily petitioned the Archbishop that in the enclosure of the Beaterio they be allowed to have young native girls to educate them in the faith and Christian perfection. This the Archbishop approved Furthermore, the Beaterio will provide these young native girls protection, greater security and custody.

For Mother Francisca and the Beatas this was the way to which God was calling them. In the letter to the Archbishop, she wrote: “We are firm in our good purpose and want to begin definitely with full commitment this way of our vocation and this life of greater perfection to which God is calling us”.

6. Patience

From the gift of communion arises the duty to build fraternity, in other words, to become brothers and sisters in a given community where all are called to live together. From accepting with wonder and gratitude the reality of divine communion shared with mere creatures, there also arises conviction of the need to make it always more visible by building communities “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”.

Understanding the composition of a community who are men or women “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” is born “from God” which is a living sign of the primacy of the love of God who works wonders, and of the love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters as manifested and practiced by Jesus Christ.

Mother Francisca being the Prioress has had the opportunities to practice her love for God and for her sisters by accepting every Beata with patience, as narrated by Fr. Juan de Santo Domingo. He wrote: “There were some Beatas who lived devoutly and persevered for some years. However, there were others who at times they gave in to chatting unnecessarily. These eventually found their activities disgusting in the Beaterio. They wanted to leave the Beaterio to the extent of writing the Archbishop telling him of how rigorous their state of life was. Things were getting out of hand with these Beatas. Fr. Juan wanted to know the names of these Beatas by asking Mother Francisca but he did not. He knew that these were mortifying Mother Francisca and she must have been patient with them while they were in her office.

At another occasion, while they were in Santa Potenciana, she waited patiently again with prayers and tears knowing not of their return to the Beaterio. Patiently, she bore the restlessness of some of the Beatas who would like to go home with their parents. With pain in her heart, she endured patiently the many Beatas who did not obey her because they claimed they had been dispensed from the vow of obedience and therefore they are not obliged to obey her. It grieved her deeply when a Beata used her as an excuse for leaving.

Jesus saw all these and Mother Francisca profited from them because she bore them for the love of Him to whom she gave her life.

7. Gratitude

Every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for all this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”; “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Mother Francisca’s whole life was an offering of thanksgiving to Jesus. She never ceased thanking Him in all circumstances of her life until her last breath.

However it is worth to note some of the events when Mother Francisca and the beatas expressed their gratitude by way of prayers.

The Beatas underwent numerous trials during the early years of the Beaterio. But despite all these, they did not lose sight of Jesus, their all. Their perseverance in prayer, their complete trust and confidence in God brought them to the fore, and with deep gratitude and thanksgiving for all their victories, both small and big, their unceasing praise to God was tremendous.

Furthermore, they were grateful to the Dominican Fathers of the Holy Rosary for being instruments in the realization of their vision – the Beaterio. Their eternal gratitude was also expressed to Don Juan de Escaño, their great benefactor who was instrumental for the economic stability of the community of the Beatas. As an expression of gratitude, his name is inscribed in the history of the Beaterio and until this time, he is prayed for.