Celebrating CHamoru Nobenas

The Mariana Islands were introduced to the Roman-Catholic tradition of the novena, a nine night devotional prayer ritual,by the Spanish colonizers. CHamoru people embraced the novena practice to fulfill their spiritual and cultural needs when their indigenous prayers and ancestral worship were outlawed by the Spanish priests. Through the course of over 300 years, CHamorus imbued the Catholic prayers with their own values and intentions.

The prayers were reinterpreted to be recited in fino’ CHamoru (CHamoru language), and the practice became known as nobena. Nobena evolved into gatherings of loved ones to pray and sing together, share food, and maintain kinship.

There are many nobena, each dedicated to different saints, Jesus Christ, and Mother Mary. They are said with specific intentions at certain times of year. Nobena offer those partaking in them perspective, guidance, and comfort through storytelling of the devotee’s life, and through inspirational reflections and prayers about the intention of said nobena.

They are led by techa (prayer leader) in settings of the home, chapels, churches, or other communal spaces in the village. Specific women and/or families would make a promesa (promise), either bestowed on them or taken up by their own accord, in which they vow to say a particular nobena every year.

Nobena is now a beloved CHamoru tradition. From losing someone or something, to honoring survival and resilience through war, and sanctifying the family unit, nobena have become beacons of light and hope in the darkest and hardest of times.

They serve as reminders of what can be overcome through the power of faith and family. Nobena are also fulfilling means for those learning fino’ CHamoru to read and speak communally.

This new Guampedia section is intended to make learning and perpetuating the unique CHamoru tradition of nobena accessible for all, in hopes of inspiring families to revitalize or make their own promesa.

Nobenas and e-publications



Audio files and music sheets

All audio files sung by Carmen Rojas, 2023

O Sagråda Na Familia
Såntos-Måme, San Antonio
Si Yu’us Numå’e Yo’
Si Yu’us Un Ginegue
Si Yu’us Un Ginegue, Raina
Ta Fañaonao Gi Piniten
Ta Tuna Si San Antonio
U Ma Gef Tuna

Other materials