It was my good fortune to discover that my Dublin neighbour, in Stillorgan, is Dr Teresa Iglesias, the much admired scholar, academic and specialist on John Henry Newman. She edited with a new preface Newman’s famous text The Idea of a University and has been closely involved in preparations for the canonisation in Rome later this week (see Teresa’s article on Newman and Ireland here).
Teresa is lively, friendly, energetic and merry, a Spanish-born single woman of personal charm and neat chic. She was one of nine children, born in Salamanca in the 1940s: they are a long-lived family and all but one of her siblings is still alive, and all seem to be high achievers.
Teresa’s doctorate was on the philosopher Wittgenstein, and her second speciality became medical ethics. She lectured at UCD for some years and at Oxford’s Linacre Centre, (now the Anscombe Centre for Bioethics). Her medical ethics guidelines were: “Heal. Care. Do no harm.”
Then, in the early 1990s, when teaching at UCD, a Colomban priest, Fr Patrick Bastable, who was ailing, approached her in connection with a trust he hoped to found to promote Newman’s exemplary life and educational principles. She became a founding member of the Newman Trust and Fr Bastable’s 700 Newman books were bequeathed to it.
The care and curating of these books were now Teresa’s responsibility and eventually these found a home at Newman House in Stephen’s Green: the books are now part of the Newman Research Library.
With a group of interested friends Teresa also started the Newman Society of Ireland in 1996: they meet monthly to enhance the study and reading of his life’s work. In 2004, the Newman Trust and UCD agreed to establish a Centre for Newman Studies, initiated by Teresa.
(For four years, between 2009 and 2013, Teresa was back in Salamanca, caring for her widowed and fragile father – a most dutiful daughter. And then she returned to Dublin, where her life is very active and full.)
UCD, which was originally associated with Newman studies (as it owned Newman House) is now very much a self-declared secular university and, it would seem, not overly keen to emphasise its historic links with a Catholic saint. Thus the Newman Centre is now “for the study of religions” – plural – rather than with Newman’s Catholic faith.
Teresa Iglesias became, thus, a specialist in the field of Newman studies in Ireland, and is one of the best-informed experts on Newman. As a permanent member of the Newman Trust and the Newman Society, she works in close collaboration with University Church, just next door to Newman House (which now houses MOLI, the Museum of Literature Ireland).
Let us do our duty as it presents itself: this is the secret of true faith and peace”
She’ll be one of a special group from Ireland – headed by Fr William Dailey of Notre Dame and University Church – going to Rome for the canonisation. With Steven Warner, she has helped to put together an exquisite booklet of music along with the Principles of John Henry Newman, which I very much hope will be available to a wider public.
One of these principles is a true inspiration to me, in everyday life. “Let us do our duty as it presents itself: this is the secret of true faith and peace.” It is Newman’s advice to take each day as it comes and do the best we can in each day. “One step enough for me,” as he says in his wonderful hymn, Lead, Kindly Light.
We often hear it said that more women should be involved with faith issues and with teaching and scholarship within the Catholic Church. Teresa Iglesias – impeccable scholar and optimistic personality – is certainly a model for that.
As it happens, when I decided to have a tattoo on my left arm about three years ago, I chose a quote from John Henry Newman: “To live is to change…” It is, of course, only part of the quotation, and I am now contemplating a second tattoo on the right arm, to complete it: “…and to be perfect is to have changed often”. My only worry about this second part is that the challenge to perfection is somewhat daunting…