Carmelite Chronicles
St. Teresa Begins Her Project

February 14, 2013 |

In early July, 1562, the very evening of her return to Avila from Toledo, where the provincial had sent her to comfort the newly widowed Dona Louisa de la Cerda, Teresa received the rescript from the Apostolic Penitentiary authorizing the foundation of a Carmelite monastery under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Avila. Dated February 7, 1562, it was addressed to Doña Guiomar de Ulloa and her mother, Doña Aldonza de Guzmán. Since it did not specify that it should be founded in absolute poverty, another rescript with this provision was acquired under the date December 5, 1562. Teresa was also delighted to find at hand in Avila her old friend, Fray Peter of Alcantara. It was he who overcame the misgivings of the bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, about founding the house in poverty, and who persuaded him to accept it under his jurisdiction.

A sickness of her brother-in-law, John de Ovalle, who was living alone in the house destined for the monastery, provided Teresa with an excuse for staying there to attend him; at the same time she could oversee last-minute preparations for the opening of the monastery. On August 24, 1562, four women took the habit: Antonia de Henao (of the Holy Spirit), a penitent of St. Peter of Alcantara; Maria de la Paz (of the Cross), a serving girl of Doña Guiomar de Ulloa; Ursula de Revilla (of the Saints), a protege of Gaspar Daza; Maria de Avila (of St. Joseph), sister of Julian de Avila. With Teresa were two nuns of the Incarnation, her cousins Inés and Anna de Tapia. Gaspar Daza, as representative of the bishop, received the vows of the candidates, offered Mass and reserved the Sacrament. “So, with the full weight of authority this convent of our most glorious father, Saint Joseph, was founded in the year 1562.” But the “full weight of authority,” one might note, had been obtained in a rather surreptitious manner.

The Convent of St. Joseph today.

The Convent of St. Joseph today.

Peter Ibáñez, who returned to Avila around mid-December, 1562, persuaded Bishop Mendoza to obtain permission for Teresa and some companions to live at St. Joseph’s to initiate the divine office and to instruct the novices. Four nuns from the Incarnation, Anne Dávila, Anne Gómez, Mary Ordóñez, and the novice, Isabel de la Peña, accompanied her. Teresa made Anne Dávila prioress and Anne Gómez subprioress. Early in 1563, the bishop made Teresa prioress. The sisters dropped their family names, and Teresa de Ahumada became Teresa of Jesus. On August 22, 1563, Salazar gave permission to Teresa and three companions from the Incarnation to remain in St. Joseph’s for one year. (Anne Dávila had returned to the Incarnation.) At the end of this period, Teresa asked the papal nuncio, Alexander Crivelli, permission, to be confirmed by the provincial, to transfer definitively from the Incarnation to St. Joseph’s.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

Fr. Joachim Smet O.Carm.
Fr. Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (1915-2011) was one of the leading historians of the Carmelite Order. In addition to being a founding member and President of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome and editor of Carmelus, a journal of Carmelite Studies, Fr. Joachim was a gifted writer. he is well-known for his four-volume work The Carmelites and his Life of Saint Peter Thomas. Among his other works: Familiar Matter of Today-Poems (2007), The Mirror of Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Order, (2011), various publications on Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Liturgy, Carmelite Libraries of Spain and Portugal and the Carmelites of Medieval England.
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