Sister Teresa was born in Manila, Philippines, and joined the Maryknoll Sisters from the Diocese of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, in 1966. As a missioner, Sister Teresa was assigned in 1969 to Hong Kong, where she taught at Maryknoll Convent School and also studied Cantonese for two years. From 1972 – 1982, Sister Teresa’s ministry was with industrial workers, starting with work in a toy factory while residing in a crowded resettlement area where the Young Workers Center, which she started, was located.
In 1979, she was asked to coordinate the Women Workers Program of the Christian Conference of Asia-Urban Rural Mission (CCA-URM) based in Hong Kong, and traveled to several Asian countries to do education, organization and advocacy work promoting industrial women workers rights.
In 1984, an assignment to the Philippines found Sister Teresa working with women in Baguio City, initially with the Social Action Center of the Vicariate for three years. She then founded the IGOROTA Foundation for the gender education and organization of indigenous women.
At the Maryknoll Sisters General Assembly at Maryknoll, NY in 1990, Sister Teresa was elected to the Central Governing Board and served in this ministry until 1997. She returned to the Philippines and engaged in pastoral ministry for parish youth in her home city and diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija. There she facilitated access to education through scholarships for students from poor families.
Sister Teresa also did doctoral studies in Anthropology part-time. She finished her research in adolescent sexuality at the University of the Philippines and graduated in 2007 with a Ph.D. in Anthropology. She has written a book based on her research findings on early sex and marriage challenges and the needs of young mothers. From 2006 – 2009, Sister Teresa was director of the Maryknoll Sisters Center for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which is now known as Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary in Baguio City.
Sister Teresa has served as a consultant to the MISMO (Miriam Identity, Spirituality and Mission Office) at Miriam (formerly Maryknoll) College since 2009. She also facilitated an “education and livelihood” program for young mothers in Jalajala, Rizal. In October 2009 when a typhoon struck, Sister Teresa worked in a relief and rehabilitation ministry there. She assisted in the education and organization for sustainable vegetable backyard gardening and economic self-reliance with young mothers in that town.
In 2011, Sister Teresa was assigned to work with the Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in Rome for the Unions of Superiors General of Men and Women Religious. This assignment aimed to promote the values of the Reign of God—justice, peace, and love not merely care for human care but for care of the Earth, as well.
The European experience required the learning of several languages, which was both a challenge and an opportunity to work for justice and peace on a global scale with women and men. While in Rome until 2016, Justice and Peace work engaged Sister Teresa in meetings of Working Groups reflecting and systematically generating action on Anti-Trafficking issues, Peace, Economic Justice, FAO (food security and food sovereignty issues), Integrity of Creation and Collaboration of Women and Men in Church Ministry and many other concerns.
Recently, Sister Teresa told about her work in a reflection she prepared for Maryknoll’s Office for Global Concerns. After several years of mission in Rome, she was assigned back to the Philippines in 2017 where she continues to be in mission at the margins – to the indigenous women and their communities, to young mothers in need of income for their families, and to young scholars from poor families who need to continue with their high school and University education. Education, she believes, provides a powerful opportunity to rise from systemic poverty affecting the lives of a significant number of families in the Philippines.
At Miriam College, formerly Maryknoll College, which the Maryknoll Sisters founded in 1926, Sister Teresa continues to strengthen the living out of the Mission Spirituality Statement which she jointly crafted with the lay administrators that currently manage this educational institution. She continues to share her mission call with the mission volunteers and faculty through workshops and retreats on the spirit of Mother Mary Joseph’s vision for mission in the 21st century. Going back to her mission in the the socio-economic-political context in the Philippines, Sister Teresa continues to serve where Maryknoll’s mission presence would have a significant impact on the margins and where ‘new wineskins’ approaches are needed today. Through this current mission involvement of Sister Teresa, she hopes to contribute to the congregational vision and mission of the Maryknoll Sisters that was articulated at the 2014 General Assembly that speaks of our collaborative mission to wholeness of members in the One Earth Community of which we are a part.