Religion and education

The Christianization of the Marianas began under the direction of Jesuit priest Diego Luis de San Vitores in 1668. In addition to evangelization in the Mariana Islands, the priests also held authority over education. The rector of the Dulce Nombre de Maria (Sweet Name of Mary) church in Hagåtña, the capital of Guam (and the ecclesiastical, civil, and military center of the Marianas), concurrently oversaw the operations of the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, the school and seminary established for boys on the island.

In 1769, by royal decree, the Society of Jesus was expelled from the Marianas and succeeded by the Order of the Augustinian Recollects (OAR). During the Spanish administration, a total of forty-eight Augustinian friars served in the Mariana Islands.

Two notable rectors in the development of Western education on the island of Guam during the Spanish administration were Aniceto Ibáñez del Carmen and Francisco Resano del Corazón de Jesús. Both priests provided leadership and wrote reports that chronicled the events of their years in the Marianas.

Father Aniceto Ibáñez del Carmen

Father Aniceto Ibáñez del Carmen was born in 1828 in Andocilla, Spain and, at the age of twenty-three, arrived in the Mariana Islands where he served a total of thirty years as an Augustinian Recollect. Father Ibáñez was the parish priest of the Dulce Nombre de Maria church from 1854-77 and again from 1887-92. During his years as the parish priest, Father Ibáñez was credited with the construction of additional schools on the island for both boys and girls.

In addition, Father Ibáñez was a prolific writer, well-versed in Chamorro (the indigenous language of the Mariana Islands), allowing him to author some of the earliest books still in existence in the Chamorro language. His publications included the Chronicle of the Mariana Islands 1846-1899; El Verdadero Cristiano (The True Christian), an instruction manual for proper Christian behavior written in both Spanish and Chamorro; Grámatica Charmorra, a translation of the document written by Luis Mata y Araujo; and Diccionario Español-Chamorro, a Spanish-Chamorro dictionary. He often dedicated his writings to the schools of the Marianas.

Father Ibáñez was also instrumental in the tutelage of the first Chamorro priest, Father José Palomo, whom he and Father Pedro León del Carmen groomed for the priesthood.

Father Francisco Resano del Corazón de Jesús

Father Francisco Resano del Corazón de Jesús also served as a church leader in the Marianas. Father Resano was born in 1851 in Andocilla, Spain and served a total of thirty-one years on Guam, Saipan, and Rota. He held the office of the parish priest of Hagåtña from 1877-85, and again from 1893-98, succeeding Father Ibáñez.

According to statistics included in The Mariana Islands, 1884-1887, written by Governor Francisco Olive y Garcia, the primary instruction of school age children on the islands was meeting with some success. In 1884, just over 1,400 boys and girls attended classes in Guam, Rota, and Saipan; additionally, of the total population of 9,680 approximately 20 percent knew how to read.

Although the main objective of the missionaries on islands was the evangelization of the region, these rectors also played significant roles in the Western education of the Chamorro people.

By Velma Yamashita

For further reading

Driver, Marjorie G., trans. The Augustinian Recollect Friars in the Mariana Islands 1769-1908. MARC Educational Series no. 24. Mangilao: Richard F. Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 2000.

García, Francisco Olive y. The Mariana Islands, 1884-1887: Random Notes. 2nd ed. Translated and annotated by Marjorie G. Driver. Mangilao: Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 1984.

Ibañez del Carmen, Aniceto, OAR, and Francisco Resano del Corazón de Jesús, OAR. Chronicle of the Mariana Islands: Recorded in the Agaña Parish Church 1846-1899.  Translated, annotated, and edited by Marjorie G. Driver and Omaira Brunal-Perry. Mangilao: Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam, 1998.