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 in Maryknoll Convent School and also studied Cantonese for two years. From 1972 to 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 invited to coordinate the Women Workers Program of the Christian Conference of Asia-Urban Rural Mission based in Hong Kong, and traveled to several Asian countries to do education, organization and advocacy work promoting industrial women workers rights. She also visited Church human development offices to promote the churches’ support for the women workers.
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 in 1987 for the gender education and organization of indigenous women. This Foundation still serves indigenous women and communities on its 36th year.
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 ministry for parish youth in her home city and diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija where she facilitated access to education through scholarships for students from poor families.
Sister Teresa also did doctoral studies in Anthropology part-time, finishing her research in adolescent sexuality at the University of the Philippines, graduating in April, 2007, with a Ph.D. in Anthropology. From 2006 to 2009, Sister Teresa was director of the Maryknoll Sisters Center for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which is our ecological center in Baguio City.
Sister Teresa was also a consultant to the Miriam Identity, Spirituality and Mission Office at Miriam (formerly Maryknoll) College in 2009 – 2010. 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.
In 2011, Sister Teresa was assigned to work as co-Executive Secretary of the Commission for Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in Rome for the Unions of Superiors General of Men and Women Religious until 2014. This assignment aimed to promote the values of the Reign of God – justice, peace, and love not merely for care of humans but for Earth care.
The European experience was one of learning a mixture of languages, which was a challenge. Justice and Peace work continues to engage Sister Teresa in meetings of Working Groups reflecting systematically on Anti-Trafficking issues, Peace, Integrity of Creation and Economic Justice. In 2014, Teresa worked with the ICR-FAO (International Congregations of Religious, a Working Group that had observers’ Status with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations. There, she worked on food and food-related issues such as food security and food sovereignty until 2016.
Recently, Sister Teresa told about her work, in a reflection she prepared for Maryknoll’s Office for Global Concerns.
Returning to the Philippines, she worked in Baguio City from her base, the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, where she and mission partners began and continue to develop Climate Consciousness and Action modules. They also organize fora with emphasis on ecological conversion as an invitation by Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for our common home, Earth. In addition, they work to connect Climate Change issues with specific local efforts, such as zero waste and climate resilient and adaptive home/school gardening. This network of mission partners aims to form a Climate Change Movement that would work to do ecological education based on One-Earth Spirituality. She also remains in a supportive role in Igorota Foundation where she serves on the Board of Trustees.
In May 2019, Teresa was appointed Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Coordinator for the Dominican Asia-Pacific Regional network for the next three years. In this capacity, she coordinates with other Promoters in various Regions all over the world to jointly address the situations of injustice and un-peace.