Passionists statement on Venerable Fr Ignatius Spencer

'He lived a life of heroic virtue'

On 9 February 2021 Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate a decree advancing the cause for the Canonisation of the Servant of God Father Ignatius Spencer. The Congregation, which is responsible for handling all causes leading to Beatification and Canonisation, having examined both the historical and theological context of Fr Ignatius Spencer, have declared that there are no objections to the Cause of Fr Ignatius being progressed; furthermore the decree states that he lived a life of heroic virtue.

Consequently, from now on Fr Ignatius will be referred to as the 'the Venerable Fr Ignatius Spencer'. In order for him to be declared Blessed (the next stage in the process) a physical miracle is now required.

Despite his aristocratic background, his possible canonisation will be due to the life he lived rather than because of whom he was related to. Both Sir Winston Spencer Churchill and Lady Diana Spencer were members of the same family.

Fr Ignatius Spencer (1799–1864) was born into one of the wealthiest and most influential families in England. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he was ordained an Anglican priest, with the strong probability that eventually he would be made a Bishop in the Church of England. However, close examination of the early history of the Church led him to decide to enter the Roman Catholic Church in 1830, with the loss of an annual income of £3,000. His journey of faith was very similar to that of his contemporary St John Henry Newman.

After a course of studies in Rome, he was ordained in 1832 and returned to work in England, initially in the Black Country. Any spare time he had after his parish work was spent working for Christian unity, in particular begging for prayers to fulfil the prayer of Jesus: 'That they may be one.'

In 1847 he entered the Passionist Religious Order, and for a time lived with Blessed Dominic Barberi (1792–1849). For the next 17 years Ignatius spent his life giving missions in England and Ireland, and spent several months at a time traversing Europe begging for prayers for Christian unity. Central to his preaching was the need for each individual to be personally converted before they could look to converting others.

Fr Ignatius died at Carstairs Junction, Lanarkshire, on 1 October 1864. He is now buried in Sutton, St Helens beside his co-workers Blessed Dominic Barberi and Venerable Elizabeth Prout (1820–64).