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Relative of Princess Diana on the Way to Sainthood

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist A Vatican investigation has declared Passionist Father Ignatius Spencer, the great, great, great uncle of Diana, Princess of Wales, to have lived a life of heroic virtue, thus paving the way for his eventual canonization. Father Ignatius was born as George Spencer in 1799 and was the youngest child of the second Earl Spencer. At the time, the Spencers, who were ancestors of Winston Churchill, were the fifth wealthiest family in the country. In 1824, George was ordained a priest in the Church of England and was given charge of a parish in Brington. He was known to have been totally devoted to his parishioners, often spending his days visiting the sick and caring for the poor. It was during this time that George began to question his Anglican faith and began to explore every Christian tradition in search of the truth. He read the writings of the early Church Fathers, particularly Gregory the Great and Chrysostom,  which led him to a deeper understanding of the differences between Catholic and Protestant thought. On January 30, 1830, George officially resigned from his parish in Brington and was received into the Catholic Church. In order to ease the blow to his parents, he went to Rome to study, which is where he met a Passionist priest, Fr. Dominic Barberi, whose great passion to convert England back to the Catholic faith would later influence him to join the order himself. He was ordained a priest in May, 1832 and returned to England the same year to serve as a curate at a parish. Here he opened schools, gave lectures on religion and made many converts to Catholicism. He made quite a name for himself as a gifted preacher who could relate as readily to the aristocracy as he could to the poor. With his health spent from continual work, Father Ignatius suffered a sudden heart attack and died alone in a ditch on October 1, 1864. When his body was exhumed in 1973, Father Ignatius' tongue was found to be incorrupt. Father's cause for beatification was opened in March 2007, and after studying his writings and his life, the Vatican has determined that he lived a life of heroic virtue and that his cause for canonization can move forward. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®