Juanita Fernández Solar was born on 13th July 1900 in Santiago, Chile. Educated in the faith by her parents from an early age, she had a precocious inclination towards prayer and doing good. In 1907 she became an external student at the school run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. On 11th September 1910 she made her first communion. This was a decisive day for her, which caused her to live in an increasingly deeper friendship with Jesus.
From a wealthy family, she treated the employees of the home with unusual affection, worrying about teaching them catechism and the material needs of the poor of their lands. Her father managed his property with little success, losing a large part of his fortune, which created not a little tension in his marriage. In addition, her brother Lucho gave up his faith and Miguel led a rather Bohemian life. In the midst of these family difficulties, she was the angel who watched over all.
When she was 15 years old, she declared that Christ captivated her. Shortly after, she became a boarder in college, something which caused great pain: she ended up saying, “boarding would reduce me to ashes.” She came to the decision to be faithful to her life as a student as a way of surrendering herself to God’s will and she made an effort to be an exemplary pupil. Not long after her entry, as a result of conversation with one of her teachers, she began discerning a possible vocation.
When she was 17, she read Saint Teresa of Jesus, which moved her to live her prayer as friendship and commitment to others. She also got to know the writings of Saint Therese and Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, with whom she felt a great affinity. She desired also to be God’s house and the praise of his glory. She began writing to Mother Angelica, the prioress of the Carmelite nuns in Los Andes and raised with the prioress her concerns about a vocation.
A year later, when her sister Lucia married, she left boarding school in order to learn household management and to come out in society. She was a happy young sportswoman who loved the outdoors. She also taught catechism and gave classes to the children from disadvantaged families and helped the missions. She had no doubt about her vocation, but she was not sure if she should become a Sister of the Sacred Heart or a Discalced Carmelite. When her mother learned of her vocation, she tried to test it in various ways to dissuade her, but was surprised at the sweetness and equilibrium with which she reacted. On 11th January she met the Carmelite nuns’ community and all her doubts disappeared, as she was captivated by the sisters’ simplicity, familiarity in relating, and spontaneity.
When her family became aware of the news, her brothers tried to dissuade her, but her parents gave their permission. She entered Carmel on 7th May 1919, changing her name to Teresa of Jesus. There she came to know the writings of Saint John of the Cross, which assisted her prayer to mature.
She carried on a real apostolate with her letters to family members and friends, urging them to become friends with God, to be happy and have gratitude. They are letters written with a great deal of affection and understanding. These and her Diaries remain as legacies of her spirituality.
In Holy Week, 1920, she became seriously ill. Confined to bed, she made her religious profession with happiness and emotion. She died on 12th April.
Her life and her spirituality are like a light radiating God in Chile and throughout Latin America. Her sanctuary is a place of pilgrimage where many people are once more united with God and their faith.