The Teresian Association, the Original Intuition of Pedro Poveda
The Teresian Association, evolution and summit of the Institución Católica de Enseñanza (Catholic Institution of Teaching) was the original intuition of Pedro Poveda. This consisted in seeing clearly that in education, culture, and the growth of each person was the possibility of a response to the social problems of his time and a privileged meeting place of the person with God. In truth, this was his most genuine and authentic concern.
With this approach as the foundation for everything else, Poveda took special care of the formation of those who would form others. In his educational proposal he always highlights the formation of educators at all levels. The Teresian Association took up the torch and today we may be able to say that it continues involved in maintaining that “Povedan” capacity of innovation and response.
Pedro Poveda allowed himself to be challenged by the reality of his time. He saw in education, in the development of each person, in the growth of one’s intelligence and skills, the extraordinary possibility of responding from this perspective to the problems Spain had to face at that time. Principles such as peace, solidarity, inclusion, and human development, which are “Povedan” and contemporary, continue to guide the educational work of the Teresian Association in the different settings where it is present.
Probably the most novel contribution by Poveda at the turn of the 20th century was the lay character of the movement that started around an educational proposal. The profile of an educator that is totally human and Christian is already clearly present in his first pedagogical projects. Poveda said that “The men and women of God are unmistakable.”
Soon after his priestly ordination, between 1902 and 1905, he created schools and developed much activity among the people of a large area in the zone of the Cuevas (Caves) close to Guadix (Granada). During those years he was concerned with the education of the children as well as that of their educators.
From today’s perspective, that project of Poveda in the Caves of Guadix presents some particularly interesting characteristics, one of which is the quality of that educational experience. He was not only able to create schools but in said schools the most up-to-date pedagogical methods known at the time were implemented. Don Andrés Manjón, author of the latest pedagogical methods then, supported the new schools at the Caves of Guadix.
Those years in Guadix, which marked Poveda forever, were enriched and complemented by the following years in Asturias as Canon of the Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga. There, at the same time that he attended a large number of pilgrims that arrived continuously, he studied and reflected on educational issues and on the need that teachers be well prepared and live their faith in a coherent and responsible manner. During the years in Covadonga he started to write and to publish around these issues that so much affected the Spanish society of the time.
His concern with teaching and the school, teachers and children, issues about education and the formation of students and educators became a central theme during his entire life. Probably because of this attitude that was so consistent and coherent, in 1974 UNESCO named him “pedagogue and humanist,” thus including him among “prominent personalities in the field of education, knowledge, and culture.” Cardinal Poupard, who at that time was President of the Catholic Institute of Paris, crowned that solemn session by pointing to the horizon opened by the Spanish priest saying: “his thought and action extend beyond every frontier and his message is spread out today to all continents. Educators, scientists, and Christians committed at all levels to a deep social and cultural action follow the path opened by Pedro Poveda.”
When Pedro Poveda started his pedagogical activity during his years in Covadonga, he alternated his work between a group of young male teachers in Gijón and a group of female Education students in Oviedo. With the men in Gijón he started a Pedagogical Center and a publication; with the female students in Oviedo he opened an Academy for Education majors with boarding accommodations to facilitate their stay in the city and provide them with the necessary means to complete their formation. Both experiences took place in 1911. But it was the women the ones that responded with extraordinary zeal and responsibility to the point that Oviedo became the launching place of a series of Academies, University and pedagogical centers that spread all over Spain quite rapidly.
Obviously, the Spanish society at the turn of the 20th century showed very little interest in the social and cultural advancement of women. In that context, Poveda is justly recognized among those who clearly capitalized on the potential of women in Spain at that time. It was as if he had intuited a “rising value.” He thought that it was urgent to prepare intellectually and culturally all the young women that wished to study and dedicate themselves to a profession that was “allowed” for them at the time, among which were majors in Education at all levels.
The Teresian Association is a very lively work that has evolved throughout time and has gone through different phases, which, undoubtedly, have enriched its own history. Today it is an International Association of Lay people made up of women and men who continue deeply engaged in carrying on Poveda’s vision in four continents. They are people with an educational vocation, committed, like Poveda, in the transformation of society through education and culture.