Statue of St. Ignatius

Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491 in the village of Loyola, Spain.  He was also the youngest of thirteen children.  Unfortunately, his mother passed when he was 7 years old, but despite this, he was motivated and had many dreams of becoming a great leader or general.  At the age of 18, he did join the military and became a soldier.  He also adapted the name Ignatius of Loyola.  He had a talent in the battlefield; he participated in many battles, always managing to be unhurt.  A story says he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus.  His talents ranked him up fast and soon he commanded his own group of soldiers.

In 1521, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball.  To save his life, doctors performed several surgeries to his legs where he was injured.  Doctors did not have much hopes and informed him to prepare for death.  During this time, Ignatius began to read.  Most of the books he had were about the lives of the saints and christianity. These stories had a profound impact on him, and he became more devoted.  Ignatius’ contributions to the Roman Catholic Church include meditation and spiritual exercises.  Ignatius of Loyola died in July 31, 1556.  He was beatified in 1609 and then canonized on March 12, 1622.

Rev. Andrew Bavastro, a Roman Catholic priest, came in 1868 to western Belize and visited the small community that thrived there.  He proposed to build a chapel and to name the village San Ignacio.  A statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola was brought from Peten and placed in a little Chapel in the community.   After some time, people from other religious beliefs removed the statue of St. Ignatius from the chapel and threw it in the bushes near the Macal River bank.  Mr. Agapito Requena, who was the owner of the land of present day Santa Elena, found the statue as he crossed the river with his canoe.  He took it and it remained in his possession.  When the church was built in Santa Elena, the statue was taken there.  Some churchgoers from San Ignacio believed that the statue belonged to the Sacred Heart Church in San Ignacio, so they decided one day to retrieve what was believed to have been theirs.  They removed the statue from the church in Santa Elena and made their way towards the river bank near the area where the Hawkesworth Bridge is now located.  Suddenly, a dark cloud approached the party very quickly from behind the hillside.  The legend says that it rained heavily with very strong gusts, hail stones and even lightning that fell nearby.  The churchgoers had no other choice but to return to the church in Santa Elena with the statue of St. Ignatius to seek shelter.  

The statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola resides today in the St. Ignatius Church in Santa Elena, where it has been for the past 100 years.  For many years, the name El Cayo was used to refer to the town because the Mopan and Macal rivers surround it, giving it the appearance of an island or caye.  It was not until 1960 that the Town Board officially named both communities the Twin Towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena.  July 31 is celebrated as the feast day for St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Although the town was named after the saint, the Easter weekend has been adapted by the community for the town fair,  as opposed to other nearby towns where the feast day is used for the celebration of such fairs.  The Catholic community, however, celebrates his feast day with a Novena, or nine days of prayer, which culminates on July 31.

1 thought on “Statue of St. Ignatius”
  1. Great story! I wonder if the name Santa Elena derived from Santa Elena, Petén, where according to your article, the statue of St. Ignatius came from.

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