George Spencer Ignatius of St.Paul

The Passionists, led by Dominic Barberi, came to England at a time of real hostility and restriction. For 250 years the English government forced members of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church known as recusants to go underground and seek training in Catholic Europe, where exiled English clergy set up schools and seminaries. Legal restrictions on Catholics lasted into the 20th century.

Spencer was first an Anglican priest who later met the Passionist Congregation. He was the son of the First Lord of the Admiralty, a son of English nobility. He lived as a child at Althorp, the family seat where Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, would later live. After a long search he found his way into the Catholic church and the Passionist Congregation. On 5 January 1847 George Spencer received the Passionist habit from the hands of his old friend Dominic Barberi, who brought the Passionists to England in 1841.

He took the religious name Ignatius of Saint Paul to express his deep commitment to bring the message of the Cross to all, like the Apostle Paul. He threw himself into Passionist life and began preaching sermons through Britain and Ireland, always calling for prayers for the conversion of England.

Ignatius created the “Prayer Crusade” and, with great commitment took it through Europe. He didn’t only invite Catholics to pray for unity; he invited everyone. His social status meant he had access to important figures like the Pope, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria and Napoleon III.

In August 1849 while preaching in Belgium he learned of Dominic’s death. He was now leader of the Passionists in England. His genuine holiness and his passion to make a difference caused people to admire him. Along with Dominic Barberi and Elizabeth Prout, foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, Ignatius is buried in St. Anne and Blessed Dominic church in Sutton in England.