St. Teresa of the Andes was born on July 13th 1900 in Santiago, Chile. She was baptised Juana Enriquete Josefina of the Sacred Hearts, but she was always known as Juanita. She was the fourth child of six, in a prosperous farming family. In 1914 during an illness she felt the call to Carmel, but she kept it to herself for a time. Juanita graduated from school with honours when she was eighteen. She was always conscientious and religious but she was not always the serious student. She had many friends, lived life to the full and laughed a lot. Like many young people of today the youthful Juanita had wide ranging interests. She enjoyed a variety of sports; tennis, swimming, croquet and especially horse riding. She could sew well and she loved music; singing, playing the guitar, piano and harmonium; she was also a good dancer. Everything seemed idyllic but there was another joy in her life which was becoming increasingly insistent. The call of Jesus had captivated her. She wrote to her sister Rebecca that she had been ‘captured in the nets of the Divine Fisherman’. Only three weeks after she left school Juanita wrote to the Prioress of the Carmel of Los Andes asking to enter early the next year. She entered on May 7th 1919 and on October 14th she received the Carmelite habit and was given the name Sr. Teresa of Jesus. During Lent the following year Sr. Teresa became ill and by Easter Monday the nuns had become very concerned about her as she slipped in and out of delirium caused by a high fever. On April 6th she received extreme unction, and on 7th the Prioress decided that it was time to allow her to make her Profession. She had been diagnosed with typhus and it was clear to everyone that she was dying. Sr. Teresa was completely abandoned to the will of God and she did not fear death as she knew in her heart that ‘to die is to be eternally immersed in Love,’ as she had written previously. On the day of her Profession Sr. Teresa received Holy Viaticum and five days later, on April 12th 1920, she died.
As time went on her reputation for holiness grew and people claimed that she had obtained favours and miracles for them. Some of these were proved and after the usual process the way was clear for Sr. Teresa’s beatification in 1987 and her canonisation in 1993. As Pope John Paul said, Sr. Teresa’s life ‘proclaims to the men and women of our day that it is in loving, adoring and serving God that the human person finds greatness and joy, freedom and fulfilment’.
St. Teresa of Los Andes is our youngest Carmelite Saint. Her Feast Day is July 13th.