Saint Pedro Poveda Castroverde
Priest and Martyr, Founder of the Teresian Association
Pedro Poveda was born on 3 December 1874 in Linares, Spain, to a solidly Christian family. From early childhood he felt called to become a priest, and in 1889 he entered the diocesan seminary in Jaén. Because of financial difficulties, he transferred to the Diocese of Guadix, Grenada, where the Bishop had offered him a scholarship. He was ordained a priest on 17 April 1897.
After ordination Fr Poveda taught in the seminary and served the diocese in many other ways. In 1900 he completed a licentiate in theology at Seville and later began an apostolate among the “cave-dwellers”, those who lived in dugouts in the hills outside of Guadix. Here he built a school for children and workshops for adults that provided professional training and Christian formation. He was misunderstood, however, and had to leave this special ministry.
So Fr Poveda headed for the solitude of Covadonga, in the mountains of northern Spain, where, in 1906, he was appointed canon of the Basilica of Covadonga in Asturias, where the Blessed Virgin is venerated under this title.
In Covadonga, he devoted much time to prayer and reflected particularly on the problem of education in Spain. He understood that the Lord was inviting him to open new paths in the Church and in the society of his time. He began to published articles and pamphlets on the question of the professional formation of teachers and was also in contact with other persons who felt the need for the presence and action of Christians in society.
The opposition between faith and science was becoming more and more evident in the culture of his day, which carried with it a de-Christianization of the public education system. Fr Poveda, after his apostolic experience in Guadix and his years of reflection and prayer in Covadonga, understood better the need to provide Christian formation for teachers who work in the State school system. He believed that a solid faith and professional qualifications were both needed to keep the Gospel message alive.
In 1911 he opened the St Teresa of Avila Academy as a residence for students and the starting point of the Teresian Association, dedicated to the spiritual and pastoral formation of teachers. The following year he joined the Apostolic Union of Secular Priests and started new pedagogical centres and some periodicals.
To further his work Fr Poveda moved to Jaén, where he taught in the seminary, served as spiritual director of Los Operarios Catechetical Centre, and worked at the Teacher Training College. In 1914 he opened Spain’s first university residence for women in Madrid.
Meanwhile, the Teresian Association continued to develop, spreading to various groups and areas, and leading to its ecclesiastical and civil approval in Jaén. Fr Poveda offered the Teresian Association as a new path of Christian life and evangelization created with and for lay persons, forming them to be witnesses of the Gospel, according to his expression: “To believe firmly and to keep silent is not possible”. He wanted the adherents to be ready to give their lives for the faith and in fact, expressed the same desire himself.
In 1921 Fr Poveda moved to Madrid and was appoined a chaplain of the Royal Palace. A year later he was named a member of the Central Board against illiteracy, but most of his time was devoted to the Teresian Association, which received papal approval in 1924. Although he did not direct the Association, as its founder he worked to consolidate and promote the various dimensions of its mission as it spread to Chile and later to Italy (1934).
It was during the religious persecution in Spain that Fr Poveda would be called to the martyrdom he so desired. At dawn on 28 July 1936, when told by his persecutors to identify himself, he said, “I am a priest of Christ”. He died a martyr for the faith, and was beatified on 10 October 1993 and canonized on 3 May by Pope John Paul II.
(SOURCE: Libreria Editrice Vaticana)