The Teresian Association, a prophetic intuition of St. Pedro Poveda
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.”
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.”
Roots of his vocation
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.
A good idea
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.
A significant number of well-educated women, leaders, many of them pioneers, constitute the initial group of the Teresian Association. They promoted a broad educational and social action, according to the pedagogical and spiritual thinking of St. Peter Poveda. They took charge of the works and activities that were opening: Academies, boarding schools, schools for workers, publications, training courses, conferences and seminars. And they held various positions in the educational system and in other spaces of society and the State.
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.
With the military uprising against the authorities of the Republic of July 18, 1936, the Spanish Civil War began, a fratricidal confrontation that caused millions of deaths. On July 27, for no other reason than to have promoted a broad spiritual and pedagogical movement throughout Spain, Pedro Poveda was arrested at his home. The following day at dawn he was found dead by three shots in the East cemetery of Madrid, today called La Almudena. He had given his life for the faith he professed. St. John Paul II proclaimed his sanctity and martyrdom in Madrid in 2003. A few days later, Victoria Díez, a teacher and catechist, member of the Teresian Association, suffered the same fate as her founder in Hornachuelos, Córdoba, Spain. She was declared Blessed in 1993.
After the war and in a context of enormous difficulties, Josefa Segovia, who was the Directress of the Teresian Work at the time, led with courage, temperance and vision, the reorganization of its various associations. She led a strong expansion into other countries of Europe, America, Asia and Africa, in response to requested demands and to the desires to contribute Poveda’s proposal wherever the rights of education were violated or were not yet fully developed.
The Teresian Association has evolved over time and has gone through different stages that undoubtedly have enriched its own history. Today it is an International Association of Lay People composed of women and men who remain committed to carrying forward the proposal of Saint Pedro Poveda, spread over four continents. These are committed people, like Poveda, to social transformation through education and culture.
Centenarians to give thanks for and other relevant historical events
In 2011 the Teresian Association celebrated the centenary of its birth with the motto "From memory to commitment." This was a privileged time to give thanks for the prophetic intuition of St. Peter Poveda, the development of the Teresian Work, and the life of many people who, with a spirituality and their own style, collaborated in social transformation and human advancement through education in numerous projects in different countries.
In 2017 another centenary, of special significance, is celebrated: the diocesan approval and recognition as a civil association in Jaén, Spain. The Teresian Work began to spread through Spanish cities and soon would to Chile, Italy, and other countries. A group of women, mostly teachers and administrators, gathered in various associations of the same Work, promoted a broad educational and social action, according to the pedagogical and spiritual thinking of St. Pedro Poveda. Academies, internships, publications were opened, training courses were organized, many people participated in congresses and seminars, held various positions in the educational system and in other spaces of society and the State.
In 2024 the anniversary of the pontifical approval of the Teresian Institution as a Pious Union will take place. This pontifical approval by means of a Decree was signed by Pope Pius XI in 1924. This decree granted the universal character and consolidation that the TA maintains since then as a Work of the Catholic Church and at the same time, as a civil association.
In 1949, Pope Pius XII asked the then President, Mª Josefa Segovia Morón, that the Teresian Association become a secular institute, an ecclesial reality that was beginning. After the Second Vatican Council, the Association, conscious of its origin and lay identity, and after a serious process of discernment that involved all the members, asked the Holy See to return to its original lay nature and identity. In 1990, Pope John Paul II signed the current Statutes of the Teresian Association, recognizing it as a private International Association of the Laity, of pontifical right. This approval has in the present the same meaning as that first pontifical approval of 1924.