Jesuits came back to Guam in 1968

The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, first brought the Catholic faith to the Mariana Islands in 1668. In 1769, however, they were expelled from Guam due to powerful enemies in Rome and replaced by the Order of the Augustinian Recollect friars. The Jesuits had been absent for nearly 200 years until they reestablished a presence on the island in 1968. Prior to this, Jesuits had often passed through Guam, many times staying at the Capuchin Friary, as they had care of the Catholic missions in the Carolines and Marshall Islands.

The Jesuit presence in Guam in the modern era has centered on three main ministries. In 1968, the Jesuits began an official program in Guam to prepare priestly candidates from the Carolines and Marshall Islands. Saint Ignatius House of Studies, opened the same year in Mangilao, Guam was established to prepare future priests by sending them first to English classes and other studies at the University of Guam. Later the seminarians could move on to further studies abroad after their time at University of Guam. Father, later Bishop, Martin Neylon, SJ, was Saint Ignatius House of Studies’ first director. The school was the first stable Jesuit presence in Guam after two centuries.

Saint Ignatius House of Studies changed locations several times, moving to Yona, then Yigo, then back to Mangilao. In 2006, the Diocese of the Carolines changed its philosophy of the pre-seminary preparation of its future clergy, and the school was closed and its program transferred to Palau

A second Jesuit ministry in Guam has been in the academic field at UOG. Some Jesuits took on positions at the university in the late 1960s for brief periods, though a few remained for many years, such as Father James McDonough, SJ, one-time Dean of the Graduate School and professor of languages. He most recently edited the translation of The Life and Maryrdom of the Venerable Diego Luís de San Vitores written by Francisco García. Having had been on the faculty since 1969, Father McDonough retired in 1994 and left Guam some years later to return to New York.

The Jesuits also assisted the local church in Guam by assuming care of the Campus Ministry at UOG. Among the several Jesuits who directed Campus Ministry was Father Daniel Mulhauser, SJ, who was also a counselor at the university and very active in Guam as a preacher, teacher, spiritual director, and retreat director.

Jesuits have also ministered in parish work in Guam. Father Thomas McGrath, SJ, assists at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña and, for a time, was chaplain at Naval Hospital Guam. He was also a long-time faculty member at UOG and one-time director of publications at the Micronesian Area Research Center. He, too, has edited or authored many historical works concerning Guam, the Marianas, and Micronesia. He has also ministered in Guam in pastoral spheres as director of Saint Ignatius House of Studies, retreat director, and spiritual director.

Father Francis Hezel, SJ, most known as Director of the Micronesian Seminar in Pohnpei and for his numerous contributions to Micronesian historical research and literature, assists at Santa Barbara parish in Dededo.

Father Kenneth Hezel, SJ, former superior of the Jesuits in Micronesia, was previously director of Campus Ministry at the University of Guam and did pastoral work among the Micronesian community in Guam.

By Eric Forbes, OFM Cap.

For further reading

Jesuits: USA East. “Homepage 2020 – USA East Province.” Last modified 12 June 2021.

The Jesuits. “Home.” Last modified 1 July 2021.