Institute of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
AbbreviationA.C.I. or A.C.J.
TypeRoman Catholic religious order
  • Rome, Italy
Sister Inmaculada Fukasawa, A.C.J. [1]
Key people
Saint Raphaela Maria Porras y Ayllon, A.C.J., foundress
WebsiteHandmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Latin: Ancillae Cordis Iesu; Spanish: Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús) is a Roman Catholic religious institute that was founded in Madrid, Spain, in 1877 by two sisters, María Dolores and Raphaela Maria Porras y Ayllon. Rafaela Maria became its first superior general in 1877 and in the same year, the congregation received papal approval. The focus of the institute is on "children's education and helping at retreats", reflected in its 130 convents in 27 countries, and the number of schools that it has founded.

Members of the institute carry the letters A.C.I. or A.C.J., after their names.


Rafaela Maria Porras y Allyon

Rafaela Maria Porras was born in Pedro Abad, Spain, on March 1, 1850. She was the youngest of seven children of well-to-do, pious parents, Ildefonso and Rafaela (Ayllón y Castillo) Porras. She and her sister, María Dolores, entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix,[2] where Dolores was given the name of Sister María del Pilar. Church authorities and the religious community mission had some disagreements about their future role as educators in Córdoba, and the sisters decided to leave the diocese. Raphaela, her sister and some of the other novices remained there to form a new community, and subsequently went to Madrid.[3] In 1877, under the authority of the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, the sisters took their vows and founded the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In 1886, receiving a Decree of Praise from the Vatican, the sisters became the Institute of Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with Raphaela at its head. Following the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the community spread quickly throughout Spain.

Rafaela resigned as the first Superior General in 1893, spending the next 32 years in prayer and contemplation at the congregation's house in Rome. She died in Rome, on the 25th of January, 1925. Rafaela Maria Porras y Ayllon was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1952 and canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. She is known as Saint Raphaela Mary of the Sacred Heart.


The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are one of many religious communities that share "a historical connection to the spirituality of the Sacred Heart". Common elements among the Sacred Heart religious communities are: the influence of the French school of spirituality, Ignatian roots, a missionary dimension, devotion to the Eucharist, and Internationality/Multiculturalism.

The Congregation, given the name “Handmaids,” in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, quickly spread to other cities in Spain, and by 1921 the congregation had communities in other countries as well, in Italy Argentina, England, Peru and Cuba. In l926 the congregation made foundations in Bolivia, Chile, and the US.

The congregation is a participant in UNANIMA International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) advocating on behalf of women and children (particularly those living in poverty), immigrants and refugees, and the environment.[4]

England and Ireland

In 1925 the sisters opened a house in London. From London, the sisters came to Dublin in 1942 and opened a retreat centre in Finglas in North Dublin. Later they moved to Avoca Avenue Blackrock before being invited by the Archbishop of Dublin to move to what is now St. Raphaela's School in Stillorgan 1971.[5]

United States

In 1926, the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus came to Philadelphia from Rome at the invitation of Cardinal Dennis Dougherty. The Sisters opened a small chapel on 34th Street, near the University of Pennsylvania and began to teach classes in business skills, languages and the arts. These classes were well attended both by the women students at the University and by working women.

In 1947 the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart opened a private elementary school for girls in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. The school was named Ancillae Academy, from the Latin word for handmaid. In 1957, the Handmaids started Assumpta Academy, a boys' school named after Mother Assumption, a founding sister. In 1969, the two merged to become Ancillae Assumpta Academy.

The Handmaids operate the Saint Raphaela Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania, are engaged in pastoral ministry in Miami, Florida, and work with immigrants in Athens, Georgia.


The Congregation came to the Philippines in 1966 and established schools. The Santa Rafaela Maria School Quezon City, started its operation in 1976.[6]

Schools founded by the institute

Spain [1]



Colegio Universitario Inglés


Seisen International School
Seisen University Gotanda, Tokyo
Seisen Jogakuin College Nagano Pref.