April 12 – St. Teresa of the Andes

April 10, 2014

St Teresa of the Andes at 18 months old.

St Teresa of the Andes at 18 months old.

Saint Teresa of the Andes, O.C.D. (July 13, 1900 – April 12, 1920), also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus of the Andes (Spanish: Teresa de Jesús de los Andes), was a Chilean nun of the Discalced Carmelite order.

First Holy Communion

First Holy Communion

She was born Juana Enriqueta Josefina de los Sagrados Corazones Fernández y Solar in Santiago, Chile into an upper class family. Early in her life she read the autobiography of the French Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux, who was later to be canonized herself. The experience had a profound effect on Juanita’s already pious character, coming to the realization she wanted to live for God alone. She had to work to overcome a very self-centered personality toward being one which cared for others above all. Her further inspiration for this self-transformation was her upcoming First Communion, which led her to this commitment in an effort to be worthy of what she was to receive.

St. Teresa of the Andes at 18 years old.

St. Teresa of the Andes at 18 years old.

In 1919, at the age of 19, Juana entered the novitiate of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in the township of Los Andes, at which time she was given the name Teresa of Jesus. Toward the end of her short life, the new Sister Teresa began an apostolate of letter-writing, sharing her thoughts on the spiritual life with many people. Within a few months of her admission to the Order, however, she contracted typhus, which was diagnosed as fatal. She was still three months short of her twentieth birthday, and had yet six months to complete her canonical novitiate, so as to be normally able to make her religious vows; nevertheless she was allowed to profess vows in articulo mortis (danger of death). She thereby died as a professed nun of the Order on April 12, 1920, which fell during Holy Week that year.

St. Teresa of the Andes

St. Teresa remains popular with the estimated 100,000 pilgrims visiting her relics each year at the Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada in the township of Los Andes, 60 miles (100 km.) from Santiago. She is Chile’s first saint, and is specially popular among women and young people.

St. Teresa of the Andes

During the early 1990s, the popular actress Paulina Urrutia (who later served as Minister of Culture for Chile) portrayed Teresa in a television miniseries for the TVN Chile network. This became one of her most popular roles, to the point that people in the streets would ask her to bless them.

Tomb of St. Teresa of the Andes in Chile.

Tomb of St. Teresa of the Andes in Chile.

Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Santiago on April 3, 1987. Her brother Luis was present at her beatification; he was the last direct relative of hers still alive then. Six years later, she was canonized by the same pope.

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