St Teresa of the Andes
Juana Enriqueta Josefina Fernandez Solar (known as Juanita) was born into a wealthy family in Santiago, Chile, on 13 July 1900, the fifth of six children.
Juanita was attracted to prayer from childhood, especially the rosary, which she made a promise to pray every day. She also had a great longing to make her first Holy Communion, which she was finally given permission for at the age of 10, after much opposition. 10 was considered young to receive the Sacrament at that time.
In 1914, she read The Story of a Soul by St Thérèse of Lisieux – who was not yet beatified – and was captivated. Soon afterwards she felt that Christ was calling her to become a Carmelite. In 1917 she read the spiritual writings of another holy French Carmelite, St Elizabeth of the Trinity, who died in 1906. Also in 1917 Juanita began to be in contact with the Carmel of Los Andes but did not make her first visit there until January 1919. She was received well by the community and confirmed in her desire to enter. On 25 March 1919, she wrote a beautiful letter to her father asking for his permission to enter Carmel. He was moved to tears by the letter and granted his permission, and so she entered on 7 May 1919 and was given the name Teresa of Jesus just like St Teresa of Avila - perhaps an indication of the community's affection and hopes for Juanita.
Sr Teresa lived in Carmel for only eleven months, with great zeal , joy and holiness. Her vision for the Carmelite life was that it consists in three things: to love, to suffer and to pray for the conversion of sinners, the sanctification of priests and for the Church.
As a young girl, Juanita’s health had never been strong and in March 1920, Sr Teresa fell seriously ill with Typhus. Once her death seemed inevitable, she was given special permission to make profession of vows on 7thApril, an occasion of great joy for her.
She died on April 12th, 1920. Her funeral was attended by many people and her reputation for holiness began to grow immediately.
Teresa of Los Andes was beatified by Pope St John Paul II during his visit to Chile in 1987. She was the first Chilean to be raised to the altars. Six years later, St John Paul II canonised her in Rome.
We celebrate her feast day on 13 July.