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St. Teresa of Los Andes

Juana Enriqueta Josefina Fernandez Solar was born in Santiago, Chile, on 13 July 1900. Those who knew her closely called her Juanita. She was raised with her parents, three brothers, two sisters, and surrounded by relatives. Her family was well-off and faithful to their Christian faith. She awakened to the life of grace when she was still quite young, saying in her diary that it was about the age of 6 where God began to claim her heart for himself. But she had many difficult personality traits to overcome – she was proud, self-centered and stubborn, and yet had remarkable determination to overcome her own defects.

Juana was educated in the college of the French nuns of the Sacred Heart. At the age of ten she made her First Holy Communion. Understanding that God was going to dwell within her, she set about acquiring all the virtues that would prepare her for this great day. In the shortest possible time she managed to transform her character completely. After her First Communion, she began to receive mystical graces and interior locutions from God.

When she was fourteen, under God’s inspiration, she decided to consecrate herself to God as a religious in the Discalced Carmelite Nuns, and at the age of fifteen she made a vow of virginity for 9 days, continually renewing it from then on. Her desires were realised when she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Spirit in the town of Los Andes on 7 May 1919. She received the Carmelite habit on 14 October the same year and began her novitiate with the name of Teresa of Jesus.

Teresa possessed an enormous capacity to love and to be loved, joined with extraordinary intelligence. God allowed her to experience his presence. Knowing him, she loved him; and loving him, she bound herself totally to him, even through many interior trials. She knew for a long time that she would die young, and this came to pass when she contracted typhus and died on 12th April, only three months short of her 20th birthday, while still a Carmelite novice. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Santiago de Chile on 3 April 1987 and canonised by him on March 21st 1993 in Rome. She is the first Chilean to be declared a Saint. She is the first Discalced Carmelite Nun to become a Saint outside the boundaries of Europe and the fourth Saint Teresa in Carmel (together with Saints Teresa of Avila, of Florence and of Lisieux).

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