Saint of the Day – 28 July – Saint Pedro Poveda Castroverde (1874-1936) (aged 61) Priest and Martyr, Founder of the Teresian Association, Teacher, apostle of charity and prayer, promoter of the woman’s role in society especially via Christian female education – born on 3 December 1874 at Linares, Jaen, Spain and died by firing squad on 28 July 1936 at Madrid, Spain.
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-Christianisation 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 evangelisation 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 appointed 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 Canonised on 4 May 2003 by St Pope John Paul II…Vatican.va
Father Poveda was deeply aware of both the need for education in his country, and for qualified teachers to provide it. He also saw this as an important role for women. In 1911 Pedro founded 1911 the St Teresa of Avila Academy in Oviedo for those ladies studying to become teachers. He named it after St Teresa of Avila, a woman of learning, a doctor of the Church and a teacher of prayer. He named his organisation the Teresian Association. Its aim is to invite men and women to work for a social and human transformation, in accordance with Gospel values, from the platform of their own professions, especially those related to the fields of education and culture. The early members of the Association were women involved in all levels of education, from elementary to the provision of higher education for women. Additional academies were established in many other cities of Spain. This association has schools around the world, including Brazil, Ireland, Philippines, India and in most South American capitals.
In 1914 he opened Spain’s first university residence for women in Madrid. Residences for women were opened in those places that have a university.
In 1924, Pope Pius XI approved the Teresian Association as a “pious union of the faithful” and later spread to Chile and Italy. In 1951 the Teresian Association was granted the status of Secular Institute. On 10th July 1990, St Pope John Paul II approved that it reverts back to its original identity as being an Association of the Faithful. The Teresian Association is registered in the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life of the Holy See. It is active in thirty countries. Its objective is the human promotion of individuals and the transformation of unjust structures by means of an education and culture imparted from a Christian perspective.
A film was made of his life in 2016.
“St Pedro Poveda, grasping the importance of the role of education in society, undertook an important humanitarian and educational task among the marginalised and the needy. He was … a teacher of the Christian life and of the relationship between faith and knowledge, convinced that Christians must bring essential values and commitment to building a world that is more just and mutually supportive. His life ended with the crown of martyrdom.” … Homily of St Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his Apostolic Journey to Spain, 4 May 2003