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New jurisdiction added for Micronesia

In 1889, when the unified Spanish Province was divided, a separate jurisdiction was created specifically for the Capuchin missionaries in the Carolines called the District Nullius, headquartered in Madrid and under the direct supervision of the supreme Capuchin superior in Rome. The District Nullius enjoyed the financial support of the Spanish colonial government. Catholic missions were opened in Yap, then Pohnpei and lastly Palau. Christianity was new to Yap and Palau and the old beliefs were hard to die, while Pohnpei had a half-century of successful Protestant evangelization.

With the sale of the Caroline Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands to Germany in 1899, the Spanish Capuchin missions in the Carolines virtually collapsed. The friars there found themselves in financial straits since the new German government would not subsidize their mission. The friars also found themselves strangers in now German lands, and increasingly ignored by the islanders.

The religious situation in nearby Guam, however, provided an opportunity for the Spanish Capuchins to meet a dire missionary need. In 1899, the American Naval Government expelled the Spanish Augustinian Recollect missionaries, leaving the single Chamorro diocesan priest, Padre Jose Palomo, to care for the entire island’s predominantly Catholic population. Palomo reached out to the Capuchins in the Carolines, and by 1901, the Capuchins were able to send a few of their number to Guam. Besides, the Spanish friars were being replaced gradually in the Carolines by German friars.

Order of Friars Minor, Capuchins

The last missionary community in charge of the Catholic Mission in Guam, the Capuchins form one of three branches of the Order of Friars Minor, commonly called the Franciscan Friars. Saint Francis of Assisi, born Francesco di Bernardone in the province of Umbria, Italy in either 1181 or 1182, began a gradual process of spiritual awakening in 1205. He attracted followers and received papal permission to live in religious community following a prescribed church “rule of life” in 1209. He called his community the Order of Lesser Brothers, in the ecclesiastical terminology of the time, the Friars Minor.

After his death, various groups formed within the Order depending on their interpretation of the Franciscan Rule. The Observant group tried to live the Rule as strictly as possible. In time, one of their members, Matteo di Bassi from the Marches area of Italy, decided to live the Franciscan Rule even more austerely than what was then the norm. In 1525 he received papal permission to live an eremitical life in solitude and the strictest poverty, wearing a version of the Franciscan habit (robe) he believed was the authentic copy of Saint Francis’ garb. Matteo also attracted a following and in 1528 Rome allowed them to separate from the Observants as another branch of the Order of Friars Minor. The people gave them the Italian sobriquet “Cappuccini” on account of their large hoods (capuches).

Before long, the Capuchins were a large and popular religious community in Italy and eventually the rest of Europe. They stood out from the other religious with their long beards and bare feet. They lived in simple friaries usually just outside the city walls, so that they could have the atmosphere of prayerful quiet and still be close enough to preach and take care of the sick in the cities. They were well-known for preaching, for fearlessly assisting in times of plague or epidemic and for their rigorous poverty. Originally, they did not administer parishes but would meditate in solitude and then go forth and preach in churches and the town square. One of the friars went out every day begging for their daily food, and usually ended up sharing the donations with other poor and needy people. The Capuchin friar became the beloved friend of rich and poor alike.

Eventually, Rome asked that the Capuchins spare some men for the missions. Some were sent to reclaim European areas lost to the Protestant Reformation. Other friars were sent to far-flung territories like Tibet, Ethiopia and Western Africa. Capuchins also participated in the evangelization of Latin America and the French areas of North America (Acadia and the Louisiana Territory). The first permanent establishment of the Capuchin Order in the United States was at Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin in 1857. In time the Capuchins erected the Calvary Province, with houses in Wisconsin, Michigan and New York.

In Spain, the Capuchins went through a period of re-organization in the 19th century following many years of political difficulties with the secular-minded government. By 1886, the Spanish Capuchin Province was reconstituted. In just three years, it was large enough to be divided into three separate provinces all in Spain.

When the Spanish Province was reborn in 1886, it was given a missionary task, that of evangelizing the Caroline Islands. These islands had nominally been Spanish territory for several centuries, but the Spaniards never colonized them. By the 1880s, however, German commercial interests and American Protestant mission work in the Carolines gave reason for Spain to actively re-assert their colonial claims over the islands. Part and parcel of the Spanish colonial system was the Catholic evangelization of their subjects, and the Spanish Capuchins were asked to take on that mission.

First Capuchins in Guam in 1901

The first Capuchins in Guam arrived at Apra Harbor on 12 August 1901. They were Fathers Luis de Leon and Vicente de Larrasoana, and a lay brother, Samuel de la Aparecida. All three had arrived from Yap where they had previously been working. They would not have been complete strangers to the Chamorros, for Yap had a small Chamorro colony for some time by then.

Fr. Luis was assigned to care for Inalåhan, Malesso’ and Humåtak and to assist Padre Palomo in Hagåtña when possible. Fr. Vicente was to minister in Hågat and Sumai. As more German Capuchins replaced their Spanish counterparts in the Carolines, a few more Spanish friars joined the Guam mission. Fr. Silvestre de Santibanez arrived from Palau in 1907 and relieved Fr. Luis of Inalåhan so that Fr. Luis could devote his whole time to assisting Palomo in populous Agana. Fr. Cristobal de Canals, a missionary first in Yap and then Palau, arrived later in the same year. He was assigned to care for Malesso’ and Humåtak. Several lay brothers accompanied them. The lay brothers, who were not ordained priests, provided a vital service to the mission as builders, cooks and companions to the priests.

Meanwhile in Rome, Vatican officials were trying to adjust the mission structure in Micronesia to the new political realities. In 1907, Rome joined American Guam with the German Northern Marianas into a single ecclesiastical territory (Apostolic Prefecture) with the German Capuchins of the Rhine-Westphalia Province in charge. This arrangement proved to be politically impossible to enforce in Guam, where both the Naval Government and the local people opposed the replacement of the Spanish friars with Germans. Attempts to place a German friar in Guam in 1909 and 1910 were met with petitions signed by leading Chamorro citizens against these moves. Both Washington, DC and Rome received news of these petitions.

The situation in 1910 was exacerbated by the tense relationship between the German administrator of Saipan, Georg Fritz, and the intended new missionary in Guam, Fr. Callistus Lopinot. Fr. Callistus was at the time stationed in Saipan and he and Fritz were constantly at odds. In the eyes of the US Naval Government in Guam, Fr. Callistus was not a desirable addition to the Guam church.

While these intrigues were occurring, the Spanish friars continued their daily labors in Guam. Fr. Luis spearheaded the repairs of the Hagåtña Church, damaged by earthquakes in 1902 and 1909; Fr. Vicente began construction of a new church in Sumai; Fr. Cristobal built a new bell tower (kampanayu) in Malesso’ in 1910 which still stands today.

Rome separates Guam from Northern Marianas

Change was on the way again, however, though not at the hands of German friars but by other Spanish Capuchins. In 1911, Rome separated Guam from the Northern Marianas and created an Apostolic Vicariate exclusively for Guam and entrusted it to the care of the Capuchins of the Catalonia Province (Barcelona, Spain). The first bishop for Guam was appointed in the person of Francisco Javier Vila y Mateu, a Catalonian friar, in 1911. He and other Catalonian friars were to replace the pioneer Spanish Capuchins in time.

Bishop Vila arrived in Guam in early 1912 and made the Hagåtña Church his Cathedral. Bishop Vila died within a year’s time, though, and he was replaced by another Catalonian friar, Bishop Agustin Bernaus y Serra in early 1914. Four Catalonian friars were eventually sent to Guam. Fr. Ezequiel de Mataro replaced Fr. Luis at the Agana Cathedral in 1914; Fr. Gualtero de Campo took charge of Inalåhan in 1914; Fr. Diego de Barcelona was sent to replace Fr. Vicente in Hågat again in 1914 and Fr. Tomas de Barcelona remained in Hagåtña to serve as the bishop’s secretary. Fr. Silvestre de Santibanez died in Inalåhan that year. The aged and weary Padre Palomo remained in his native island enjoying retirement from official duties. Fr. Cristobal, though he did not belong to the Catalonia Province, was able to remain in Malesso’ and Humåtak.

The Catalonian friars were to labor in Guam for just a few years. Never strong in number, the Catalonian Province found it difficult to find enough manpower for Guam let alone for their other missionary obligations. In 1914, Rome transferred responsibility for Guam to a numerically stronger province, that of Navarra. Bishop Bernaus was to be re-assigned to Central America and the Catalonian friars began to leave Guam in phases. While Guam waited for a new bishop and the Navarran friars, Fr. Cristobal was appointed the temporary head of the local church.

New leadership brings growth

The next bishop assigned as Apostolic Vicar of Guam was the Capuchin Joaquin Felipe Olaiz y Zabalza in 1914. Before he arrived in Guam, two former missionaries in Guam who left during the Catalonian period returned to Guam; Fr. Luis went back to Hagåtña and Fr. Vicente resumed care of Hågat and Sumai. Fr. Cristobal, still in Malesso’ and Humåtak, now also had to care for Inalåhan for a time.

In 1915, Bishop Olaiz arrived in Guam accompanied by two new missionaries, Fathers Roman Maria de Vera and Hugolino de Gainza. Fr. Roman was assigned to Hagåtña and Fr. Hugolino took charge of Inalåhan to the relief of Fr. Cristobal.

From 1915 until 1941, the Navarran friars oversaw an admirable period of expansion of the Guam mission. The main highlights of their success included :

• The extension of the mission’s personnel, churches and organization. By the time the Navarran friars left Guam, the number of resident priests in Guam, besides the bishop, numbered ten, the highest number of clergy on the island since at least the Jesuit times. Under the Navarran Capuchins, Hagåtña was divided into two parishes in 1919. A new church named after the Sacred Heart of Jesus was built in the Santa Cruz district of Hågatña (with a mission chapel in Anigua) to serve the 4,000 or so people living in that area; the Cathedral would continue to serve the rest of the people in San Ignacio and San Nicolas districts.

Later, a chapel in San Antonio was built in honor of that saint. Sumai was eventually separated from Hågat and given its own resident priest. Chapels were built in populated areas in central and northern Guam (Asan, Piti, Sinajana, Yona, Dededo and Barrigada), served by assistant priests in Hågatña on the weekends and periodically during the week. Inalåhan was responsible for a small chapel in Talo’fo’fo. Older churches, including the Cathedral, were either rebuilt, renovated or embellished.

The friars founded the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to assist the poor and a two-story hall was built for this group adjacent to the Cathedral. The Third Order of Saint Francis was established as well as the Hijas de Maria for young, single women. Two churches built by the Spanish Capuchins survive to this day; San Dionisio Church in Humåtak, built in 1939 by Fr. Marcelo de Villava and St. Joseph Church in Inalåhan, built in 1940 by Fr. Bernabe de Caseda. The pre-war chapel of Yona built by the Spanish Capuchins survived the war for many years but was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a modern rectory.

• The intensification of public and private devotion and catechesis. The friars held catechism classes in all the main villages daily in the afternoons when the public schools finished. The devotional life of the people, not to mention the promotion of the Chamorro language, was assisted by the huge literary output of Fr. Roman Maria de Vera, who translated more than fifty publications into Chamorro, including novenas, hymn books and a Spanish-Chamorro dictionary. The friars in Hagåtña especially conducted an active liturgical and devotional program, including separate Sunday Masses for the children and another for the English-speaking.

• The promotion of local vocations. The Navarra Capuchins sent the first Chamorro priestly vocations since Padre Palomo to the San Jose Seminary in Manila. Three of them were eventually ordained : Fathers Jesus Duenas, Oscar Calvo and Jose Manibusan. Father (later Archbishop) Felixberto Flores began his priestly education when Guam still had a Spanish bishop but he concluded his training during the American Capuchin period. Native priests were to prove critical for the Church when the Spanish friars were no longer in Guam.

So secure was the Catholic Mission in Guam that, in 1929, a mission inspector by the name of Fr. Joaquin Vilallonga, a Jesuit, declared that the Guam Mission was one of the best in the Church. The only regret of the Spanish friars was that their attempts to bring in Catholic sisters were frustrated by the insurmountable opposition of the Naval Government which believed that sisters would open private schools to the detriment of the public schools and to the people who, as they believed, lacked the money to pay for tuition.

Navy wants American priests

As Naval interest in the Americanization of the Chamorro people increased, so did their desire for the replacement of the Spanish friars with American missionaries. By the middle of the 1930s, discussion began on this topic among the Naval authorities and Cardinal Hayes, the Archbishop of New York who had ties with the US military as spiritual head of the Catholic military chaplains. Hayes contacted Rome and Rome asked the Pittsburgh Province of Capuchins to look into the possibility of taking over the Guam mission.

Two Pittsburgh friars, Fathers Alban Hammel and Sylvester Staudt, arrived in Guam in late 1936 to observe the mission and assist the Spanish friars. Fr. Sylvester formed a young men’s group, the Knights of Christ the King, and tried to open a minor seminary. The Pittsburgh Province, however, declined to take on the Guam mission.

Instead, the Calvary Province, headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, was assigned the care of the Guam mission. The first Detroit friars to arrive came in early 1939. For every Detroit friar that arrived, the Navy sent away one Spanish friar. By September, 1941, all the Spanish friars, except for the Bishop and his lay brother secretary, were replaced by Americans. They were : Fathers Ferdinand Stippich (Superior), Xavier Marquette, Theophane Thoma, Alvin LaFeir, Marcian Pellett, Mel McCormack, Felix Ley (later Bishop in Okinawa), Alexander Feeley, Adelbert Donlon and Arnold Bendowske. There was also a lay brother, Gabriel Badalamenti, assigned to Guam.

Fr. Leon de Alzo, the priest of Sumai, had succeeded Bishop Olaiz in 1934 and returned to his baptismal name, Miguel Angel Olano y Urteaga. Olano was supposed to be replaced by an American bishop, but the outbreak of World War II in Guam on 8 December 1941 delayed it. On 10 January 1942, after having placed the bishop and the friars under arrest in the Agana Cathedral beforehand, the Japanese sent all the Capuchins to prisoner of war camp in Japan.

Because he and his lay brother companion were from Spain, a neutral country during the war, Bishop Olano was quickly allowed to take residence in Tokyo at the home of the Spanish Ambassador. Eventually, he was given permission to leave for Portuguese Goa in India, afterwards passing into British-controlled India. The American friars were not as fortunate. They spent all their time as prisoners of war, mainly in Kobe, Japan. While they were still incarcerated, Guam was liberated in August of 1944 and Bishop Olano made his way slowly to Australia, then to the Philippines and finally to Guam on 21 March 1945 to find an island devastated by war. His Cathedral was destroyed and so were some churches and chapels. The people were displaced and there was a need for new chapels in new settlements.

Detroit was able to send Fathers Anselm Leahy and Paul Toschik to Guam in early 1945 while the war still dragged on. Olano was also helped by Father Calvo, the only one of two Chamorro priests who survived the war. Military chaplains also assisted to a great extent. In August of that year, the friars in Kobe were liberated after the surrender of Japan and Father Ferdinand returned to Guam via the Philippines while all the rest went back to the US mainland for medical examinations.

August 1945 was also the moment when a new American bishop was appointed for Guam. Francis Cardinal Spellman, then the Archbishop of New York and head of the Catholic military chaplains, paid a visit to Guam and informed Olano of Rome’s desire to replace him with an American bishop. Olano obediently resigned and it was soon announced that the new bishop would be Capuchin Father Apollinaris W. Baumgartner. Olano’s departure from Guam on 26 October 1945 definitively closed the almost three centuries of Spanish missionary labors in Guam.

Baumgartner leads post war rebuilding

Bishop Baumgartner arrived in Guam on 23 October 1945. Gradually, most of the pre-war American friars returned to Guam as well as new missionaries. Their task was daunting : they had to build many new churches, chapels and schools at a time when money and resources were lacking. During the twenty-year period of American Capuchin jurisdiction over the Guam mission, their main successes were :

  • The building of churches and schools. Since there was only one diocesan priest in Guam immediately after the war, virtually every parish in Guam was staffed by the Capuchins. Capuchins built nearly all of the post-war Catholic churches in Guam. Some have been replaced by present structures built by later diocesan clergy, but the following churches built by Capuchins are still standing : the Agana Cathedral, Hågat, Sånta Rita-Sumai, Yona, Chalan Pago, Talo’fo’fo, Mangilao, Piti, Yigo, Tamuning, Tumon, Ordot. Asan’s church was begun by a Capuchin but completed by a diocesan pastor. Some of these churches have been enlarged and renovated by subsequent diocesan pastors. Inalåhan and Humåtak’s churches are pre-war Capuchin constructions. The parochial schools in some of these parishes were also built under Capuchin administration. In 1948, Fr. Alvin LaFeir, OFM Cap, built the Catholic Activities Hall behind the Cathedral in Hagåtña, which served as the main gathering place in Guam for religious as well as civic events until it was demolished to make way for improvements on the site.
  • The bringing of women religious to Guam. Through the efforts of Bishop Baumgartner and several friars, the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration came to the island mainly to staff the Catholic school system. Numerous Chamorro women joined their ranks. The Capuchins supported these different communities and helped build convents for them in the parishes they served.
  • The promotion of a native clergy. Bishop Baumgartner opened Guam’s first minor seminary and Catholic boys’ high school for the promotion of local vocations to the priesthood. To run Father Duenas Memorial School and Minor Seminary, Baumgartner secured the services of the Stigmatine Fathers from Waltham, Massachusetts. In 1959, the Capuchins took over the administration of Fr. Duenas Memorial School and Minor Seminary when the Stigmatines returned to the States. Many diocesan priests were ordained because of these efforts.
  • The opening of a Catholic medical center. Located on the site of the pre-war Santa Cruz church, the Catholic clinic operated for many years with Franciscan Sisters as administrators until the clinic was taken over by private interests.
  • The organziation of the Catholic laity. Bishop Baumgartner, together with the friars and Monsignor Oscar Calvo, regrouped the pre-war lay associations into new organizations. The mothers’ group was organized into the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers. The young ladies’ group became the Sodality of Mary. The men were organized as the Holy Name Society. These lay associations were very strong in many of the parishes. The Franciscan Third Order (Secular Franciscans) also continued to grow after the war.
  • The inauguration of Catholic media. Baumgartner founded Guam’s first Catholic newspaper, the Umatuna Si Yuus, now called the Pacific Voice. Under Baumgartner, there was also a Catholic presence on television and radio.

In 1953, a permanent home was built in Agana Heights for the Capuchin missionaries in Guam. Dedicated to Saint Fidelis, the friary also served as a guest house for the Jesuit missionaries in Micronesia and as a meeting place for all the clergy of the Guam Vicariate. Fr. Theophane Thoma, OFM Cap, was the Capuchin Superior who built the friary and Fr. Bartholomew Kestell, OFM Cap designed it.

Regional expansion

The work of the friars in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was not limited to Guam. In 1946, Guam was given responsibility for the Northern Marianas, previously cared for by Spanish Jesuits. In 1947, Fr. Ferdinand Stippich, OFM Cap, was sent to Saipan and Fr. Marcian Pellett, OFM Cap, was sent to Rota. In time, Fr. Ferdinand built the present Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa, Saipan and Fathers Cornelius Murphy, OFM Cap and Rufin Kuveikis, OFM Cap built the present San Francisco de Borja Church in Songsong, Rota. Later, Fr. Marcian became the first Catholic pastor of Tinian in modern times and built the first San Jose Church on that island which has now been replaced by a new structure.

All during these post-war decades, Capuchin friars on Saipan would make periodic visits to the small communities living in the northern islands of Pagan, Alamagan, Agrigan and Anatahan. On Tinian, a hospital for all of Micronesia for patients with Hansen’s disease was opened and Fr. Marcian took care of these patients.

Guam was even assigned the care of the Catholic mission of Okinawa for a brief period, from 1947 until 1949. Bishop Baumgartner sent two friars there : Fathers Felix Ley, OFM Cap and Alban (Raymond) Bartoldus, OFM Cap. Okinawa became a separate mission in 1949.

In the 1950s and 60s, Capuchins also worked on Wake Island, also the responsibility of the Guam Vicariate at the time. Among them were Fathers Emery Nemeth, OFM Cap and Canice Cartmell, OFM Cap. Most of their congregation was made up of civilian employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and their families.

In 1952, the Calvary Province, which had been responsible for the Guam mission since 1939, was divided into two new provinces, the Saint Joseph Province (with headquarters in Detroit, Michigan) and the Saint Mary Province (based in New York-New England). Guam was assigned to the Saint Mary Province, but the friars from Saint Province Province (about half the friars in Guam) were allowed to remain in Guam and the Marianas. In fact, two superiors of the Guam community were St. Joseph Friars, namely, Fr. Theophane Thoma, OFM Cap (1952-1955) and Fr. Kieran Hickey, OFM Cap (1955-1961; 1964-1970). In 1965, the Guam Vicariate was elevated to a diocese with Bishop Baumgartner as the first residential Bishop of Hagåtña. The Capuchins no longer had responsibility for the local church, but it was still a young, missionary diocese that needed the continued help of the friars.

By the 1970s, more and more Chamorro diocesan priests were being ordained and the friars started to return the care of some of the parishes back to the diocese. In the 1970s, a new community of religious men also arrived to help the diocese, the Augustinian Recollects. The Capuchins returned more parishes to the diocese in order to assign Recollects to parish work. In 1974, after staffing the school and seminary for twenty-five years, the Capuchins ceded the administration of Fr. Duenas Memorial School to the Marist Brothers, and later the Minor Seminary was given to the diocesan priests to run.

Meanwhile, more Chamorros were joining the Capuchins. Fr. Ferdinand Pangelinan, OFM Cap, from Saipan, was the first Chamorro friar (1949), and Fr. Daniel Cristobal, OFM Cap, born in Hagåtña, Guam, was the first Chamorro Capuchin priest (1959). By the early 1980s, there were almost a dozen Chamorros in the Order, either as priests, brothers or friars in formation.

The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin is a religious order of friars within the Catholic Church, and it is an offshoot of the Franciscans. Rome established a Guam community as a Vice Province of the New York Province in 1982. The new Vice Province was named the “Star of the Sea” in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it was given Hawai’i as part of its territory.

Visit by Pope John Paul II

In the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Guam in 1981, a Capuchin, Fr. Daniel Cristobal, OFM Cap, was tasked by Bishop Flores to organize all the church preparations for that visit. Fr. Daniel was also appointed by Bishop Flores to chair the Holy Year pilgrimage of the diocese in 1975, the Guam pilgrimage to the beatification of Blessed Diego Luis de Sanvitores in 1985, as well as other important events in the diocese.

In 1984, Fathers George Maddock, OFM Cap and Paul Minchak, OFM Cap, were the first Guam Capuchins sent to work in Hawaii. The Capuchin presence in Hawaii has grown over the years and the friars now staff three parishes there.

In 1985, one of the Chamorro Capuchins, Father Anthony Apuron, OFM Cap, was consecrated bishop and made auxiliary to Archbishop Felixberto Flores. In 1986, Apuron succeeded Flores as Archbishop of Hagåtña though he has now stepped down.

In 1994, the friars were no longer able to serve in the Northern Marianas and returned the care of their last three parishes in Saipan (San Roque, Tanapag and Garapan) to the diocese. The friars had previously done so in Rota and Tinian.

In 1997, the friars elected the first Chamorro Vice Provincial superior of the community, Fr. Agustin Gumataotao, OFM Cap.

Star of the Sea

Today, the Guam and Hawai’i friars form a Custody under the New York Province. There are seven active members of the Capuchin Custody of Star of the Sea, serving in both Guam and Hawai’i. Five parishes in Guam are headed by Capuchin pastors (Sinajana, Agana Heights, Mangilao, Yona and Talo’fo’fo). Capuchins of the Custody also serve as military chaplains and members of archdiocesan boards and committees.

In the past, some have served as hospital chaplains, in several Chancery positions, Campus Ministry at the University of Guam, itinerant preachers, spiritual directors to various Catholic organizations (e.g. Christian Mothers, Secular Franciscans, Cursillo), chaplains to the Guam Legislature, chaplains and assistants to chaplains of various military communities (e.g. Naval Hospital, the Proteus submarine, Naval Station). In an unofficial capacity, Fr. Paul Toschik, OFM Cap, visited the clients at the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Friars have also worked with Marriage Encounter groups.

Fr. Marcian Pellett, OFM Cap, though not professionally trained, was by avocation a painter and sculptor and his works of religious art graced many churches in the past. Today, his works can still be seen in the Agana Cathedral as well as St. Francis Church, Yona. Fr. Marcian was also interested in archeology and brought notice to ancient Chamorro hieroglyphics found in Tinian in what became known as “Marcian’s Cave.” Fr. Robert Phelps, OFM Cap, has had much of his poetry published and has had his paintings featured in exhibits. Archbishop Apuron has translated many songs and also literature into Chamorro and has recorded several musical albums.

Capuchins were also active in 1975 in the spiritual and material assistance of the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who came to Guam after the fall of Saigon.

A Capuchin, Fr. Robert Phelps, OFM Cap, was founder of Sanctuary, Inc., which helps troubled youth. Fr. Ferdinand Pangelinan, OFM Cap, often officiated at ecumenical prayer services for the war dead at the Peace Memorial in Yigo. Fr. Andrew Mannetta, OFM Cap, founded Guma San Francisco for the homeless in Hågatña, now run as the Kusinan Kamalen Karidat. Fr. Andrew also revived for a while the St. Vincent de Paul Society to help the poor. Fr. Jose Villagomez, OFM Cap, born in Saipan, sat on the government board that planned the construction of the Medical Center of the Marianas, and today he is a member of the Kumision i Fino’ Chamorro (Chamorro Language Commission). Fr. Eric Forbes, OFM Cap, is a member of the Historic Preservation Board. One native Capuchin of the Marianas, Br. Antonine Lizama, OFM Cap, born in Tinian, has lived and worked in the New York Province since he entered the Order.

It would be impossible to list all the thousands of Catholics in Guam baptized, married and buried by the Spanish, American and Chamorro friars since 1901; all the countless hours of confessions, preaching, teaching and counseling; all the retreats, classes and programs conducted by the friars, and the number of sick visited and anointed by them.

In 2002, Super Typhoon Pongsona damaged the St. Fidelis Friary beyond repair. The 50-year old building was demolished and a new friary was built and dedicated on 14 June 2007.

Capuchin superiors since World War II

The superiors of the Capuchin friars in Guam since World War II have been :

  • Fr. Ferdinand Stippich, OFM Cap (1945-1946)
  • Fr. Alvin LaFeir, OFM Cap (1946-1949)
  • Fr. Cyril Langheim, OFM Cap (1949-1952)
  • Fr. Theophane Thoma, OFM Cap (1952-1955)
  • Fr. Kieran Hickey, OFM Cap (1955-1961, 1964-1970)
  • Fr. Antonine Zimmermann, OFM Cap (1961-1964)
  • Fr. George Maddock, OFM Cap (1970-1976)
  • Fr. James Gavin, OFM Cap (1976-1982)

The follow have served as Vice Provincials:

  • Fr. James Gavin, OFM Cap (1982-1985)
  • Fr. John Niland, OFM Cap (1985-1991)
  • Fr. Michel Dalton, OFM Cap (1991-1997)
  • Fr. Agustin Gumataotao, OFM Cap (1997-2000)
  • Fr. Eric Forbes, OFM Cap (2000-present)

By Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.

For further reading

Archdiocese of Agaña. “Order of Friars Minor Capuchin – Franciscans.”

Forbes, Eric, OFM Cap. The German Capuchins in the Marianas, 1907-1919. Agana Heights: Capuchin Friars, 2007.

McGrath, Thomas B. “The Capuchins in the Marianas: A Note on Events and Sources.” Journal of Pacific History 20, no. 1 (January 1985): 57-64.

Sinajaña, Eric de, OFM Cap. Historia de la Misión de Guam de los Capuchinos Españoles. Pamplona: Curia Provincial de los Capuchinos, 2001.

Sullivan, Julius, OFM Cap. The Phoenix Rises: A Mission History of Guam. New York: Seraphic Mass Association, 1957.