Rafaela Ybarra Arambarri was born on January 16, 1843 in Bilbao into a comfortable middle-class family. In 1861 she married José de Vilallonga and went on to have seven children (although two died in infancy). She was devout and a visit to Lourdes in 1883 resulted in getting over a serious illness. In 1890, with the permission of her husband, she made private vows to be chaste and fully obedient to God. Coinciding with the spectacular nineteenth-century industrial take-off and urban boom in Bilbao, and the social and demographic problems these changes provoked, she organized various welfare institutions for women and children in Bilbao. In 1894, along with three others, she founded a religious order to help all the poor children of Bilbao, opening a home to help the less fortunate in 1899 (a year after her husband had passed away). In 1900, after struggling with a long illness, she herself died. Shortly thereafter, in 1901, the order she had helped found, the Angeles Custodios (Guardian Angels), received diocesan approval.
In 1929 a beatification process opened and in 1952 she became titled as a Servant of God. Then, in 1970 she was named as Venerable and in 1984 she was ultimately beatified. A process is currently taking place by which she is being considered for sainthood.