Saint Pedro Poveda was responsible for a mission in the Church and decided to offer it so that others might live it, too. He was given the gift to bring people together. He called others to live at the service of God in the heart of the world, in everyday life, living out faith and vocation in the tasks entrusted to everyone in society. His call was to serve, to offer the best, always imbued with faith. He offered a way to rally around an idea that drew no boundaries, rather it tried to merge into daily living with the efficacy of yeast and salt. He offered an agile Christian community with a basic organization composed of lay men, and especially laywomen, who tried to respond in faith and within the Church to the Gospel of Jesus and to society.
After his apostolic experience in Guadix between 1901 and 1905, he crossed Spain from North to South. At the Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga, between the Cave and the Basilica, as canon, as a priest close to pilgrims, and as young person of his time concerned with the enormous problems related to education in the Spain of those years, he deepened into the importance of the social role of education and the need for teachers who were well prepared and lived their faith in a consistent and responsible way. He published several writings on educational issues and the formation of Catholic teachers. He remained in Covadonga until 1913.
With his conviction and "praying at the foot of the Santina (Our Lady of Covadonga)" he opened in Oviedo the first center dedicated to implement his idea. He called it "Academy," located it near the Teachers School, and placed it under the patronage of Saint Teresa of Jesus. This way, in 1911 he began in Oviedo the first Teresian Academy. This first Academy was followed by many others all over Spain and by university residences, professional women's associations, schools, publications, and various projects in response to society with professional dedication and deep Christian convictions. Around his works and actions, a significant spiritual and educational movement with broad impact in different cities of Spain was generated.
In 1913, from Jaén, he continued to drive the Work of the Teresian Academies. At the same time, he participated in various cultural initiatives in the city and numerous evangelizing tasks as Professor of the Seminary and of Teaching Schools. In Jaén he met Josefa Segovia, who had finished her studies at the Teachers College of Madrid and he asked her to lead the new Academy he was planning to launch in that city. Josefa Segovia accepted and she eventually became one of his main collaborators and the first director of the Work of the Academies that were starting to take shape.
In 1914 Pedro Poveda launched in Madrid the first Women's University Residence of Spain. In 1917, the Work of Poveda, which had already evolved into the Teresian Association, received ecclesiastical approval in the Diocese of Jaén as an Association of the faithful. From the beginning it was constituted as a lay institution, under the patronage of St. Teresa of Jesus, just as it had been from the start. The intention to adopt the lifestyle of the early Christians was made explicit, and it pledged to dedicate its efforts to education and culture, the specific emphasis of its mission.
In 1921 Pedro Poveda moved to Madrid because he was appointed royal chaplain. In the capital of Spain, with more and better possibilities for the promotion and development of the Teresian Association, he participated in the social, apostolic and ecclesial life of the city. He was part of the Central Commission against Illiteracy and of the Hermandad del Refugio, coordinated associations of Catholic students and Catholic parents, and he continued guiding and promoting the Teresian Association. He continued being involved in the human and professional formation of its members, many of them working in public positions.
On January 11, 1924, Pius XI approved the Teresian Association. Poveda continued dedicated to his educational work and to the development of the Association. Convinced that "knowledge sits well with sanctity of life" (1932) he opened new residences, created Associations and was one of the main promoters in the project of a Catholic University in Spain and other European countries. In 1928 the Teresian Association began expanding into other countries, with Chile being the first to carry forward the training of teachers in a Teachers School in the capital of this Andean country. This Teachers School, called Saint Teresa Teaching School, soon became the focus and motor to foster the Work in American lands. Currently, the Teresian Association lives and works in many countries.
In the last years of his life, Poveda insisted on nonviolence as a means to resolve conflicts. "There should be no illusions –he wrote in 1935- gentleness, meekness, and kindness are the virtues that conquer the world." On July 27, 1936, when he was 61 years old, and just after he had celebrated the Eucharist, he was arrested at his home in Madrid. He did not hide his identity as "a priest of Jesus Christ." The following morning his body was found protected by the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Around his Beatification in 1993, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio wrote: "We touch the deep soul of Poveda, his true identity, the very rich source of his life and his work. The Teresian Association is the best fruit of his priesthood. Poveda was a great educator, a true apostle of youth, a great promoter of youth, a great promoter of the lay apostolate, a promoter of women's participation in the life of the Church and civil society, an admirable evangelizer of culture. But, above all, he was a priest. "
On May 4, 2003, he was canonized in Madrid by a holy pontiff, John Paul II.
The Teresian Association is an International Association of Lay people of the Catholic Church, whose purpose is to seek to promote human advancement and transform social structures through education and culture, sharing in the evangelizing mission of the Church. Saint Pedro Poveda founded it in Covadonga (Asturias, Spain) in 1911.
Its members are women and men who live Gospel values, seek a serious formation and carry out the mission of the Teresian Association in social and educational State structures and private institutions through the exercise of their profession, with the same charism, style, and spirituality. They carry out their vocation through their respective associations, each with specific characteristics.
There are also youth movements, as well as socio-educational movements, alumni associations and collaborators who share in the spirituality and charism of the Teresian Association.
The name “Teresian” is inspired by Saint Teresa of Jesus (Avila), who in the words of St. Pedro Poveda, lived "a life that was fully human and totally God-centered."
For more information: www.institucionteresiana.org