Early 19th Century secular priest

Father Don Ciriaco de Espiritu Santo, a Filipino, spent thirty-four years in the Marianas, particularly Guam, from 1815 to 1849. Del Espiritu Santo arrived in Guam from the Philippines along with Father don Ygnacio Ladilao de Mojica in 1819. However Mojica died shortly after their arrival on Guam which left de Espiritu Santo the only priest in the Marianas during that time.

The Order of the Augustinian Recollect Fathers were in charge of the Mariana missions from 1769 to 1908. Before this, the Jesuits or Society of Jesus, controlled the missions in the islands, which were initially under the guidance of Father Diego Luis de San Vitores.

In 1814, administration of the missions in the Marianas became difficult due to declining funds as the galleon trade, which brought money and goods to the islands, had stopped by this time. The Augustinian Recollect Friars had two options to continue their work in the Marianas. They could either reduce their administration of the mission or relinquish the mission altogether. The fathers turned to secular priests (priests not in a religious order) such as del Espiritu Santo to help them on Guam.

Recognizing the importance of remaining in the Marianas to tend to the Chamorros Christian faith, the Archbishop of Cebu, Joaquín Encabo de la Virgen de Sopetrán, appointed the two clergymen to administer the parishes in the Marianas. Because of a shortage of Augustinian Recollect Fathers, the clergymen were the only choice since they were ordained secular priests meaning they were not members of a religious order.

During his time on Guam de Espritu Santo served at Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hågatña as well as the parishes of Agat, Merizo/ Inarajan/Umatac, and possibly Rota. Records show that he performed numerous baptisms, marriages, and death ceremonies, leaving him as one of the most praised priests of that time period. He also fathered six children by his housekeeper, Juana Crisostomo, known as “Juanan Chano.”

De Espiritu Santo died in Guam on 21 January, just four days before the great earthquake of 1849.

By Audreya JP Taitano, MA

For further reading

Driver, Marjorie G. The Augustinian Recollect Friars in the Mariana Islands, 1769-1908. Mangilao, GU: University of Guam Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, 2000.