On May 27th, 1930, the Carmelite sisters in California received a letter from Mother Luisita that brought about a decisive turning point in their mission: “Regarding the property: Buy it.” (Letter 100)

This property in Duarte was to be the site of the Carmelites’ new apostolate: a sanatorium for girls with tuberculosis. The sanatorium claimed Saint Therese as its patroness, not only because of the illness which the suffering patients had in common with the beloved saint, but also because of Therese’s instrumental role in procuring the funds necessary to pay for this new property. In another letter, written on the same day as the letter which advised the purchase of the property, Mother Luisita explains her simple financial plan: “We’ll ask St. Therese to provide the necessary money to start the sanatorium.”(Letter 99)

Yet the connection of the Santa Teresita Sanatorium with St. Therese goes deeper even than the saint’s common illness with the patients and her lending a hand with the finances. The sweet scent of the roses of her “Little Way” swept through the halls and sickrooms of the sanatorium as the Carmelites strove to live it out daily. Mother Luisita expresses her amazement at how Therese took the Duarte houses into her own hands:

“Really and truly she’s taken possession of those houses, and no doubt she is interceding for their preservation and obtaining blessings on all your works. That’s the reason why the girls and the patients have changed.” (Letter 145)

The sisters poured out themselves in everything they did for their charges, even the littlest things out of love for the girls, and ultimately for their beloved Jesus, alive within the soul of each patient. Mother Luisita paints a beautiful image of what she pictures the life of the sisters at the sanatorium to be like:

“I imagine you as very happy and working hard in the midst of the sick little girls. Yes, my daughter, we have to forget about ourselves and make others happy. Whoever does good for others in this life will be a happy person.” (Letter 190)

Now, leaving the Santa Teresita of the 1930s behind, let us fast forward to the present day. The history of Saint Therese’s intercession remains with us. The same sweet scent of the simple happiness of living the “Little Way” continues to waft through the halls of Santa Teresita. Each resident is still another Jesus and the same gift of self and love of neighbor which were the driving force behind the work of the early Santa Teresita, remain central to our mission today. October 1st is the day that the universal Church celebrates St. Therese, our patroness. Let us give thanks to the Lord for all His goodness to us, and continue to ask the blessing of our patroness, Little Therese. May we share the hope Mother Luisita had for our Santa Teresita family:

“I hope you received the grace of having the gracious and likeable spirit of your patron, and with it, the graces of following her “Little Way” on this earth and of ultimately being her companion in heaven.” (Letter 81)

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