Friday, April 5, 2013


KILISYÅNO : Christian; from the Spanish word cristiano.

Chamorro woman, hands folded in prayer, before a grave.  A kilisyåno.
Early 1800s

Over 300 years ago, the Chamorro people became mangilisyåno, plural for kilisyåno.  I am one of their descendants.

My Chamorro grandma, born in 1899, and her sisters, raised me in the old, Hispanicized, Chamorro Catholic culture. 

Those advocating very progressive changes in the Church in the name of Vatican II had to contend with a generation of Chamorros steeped in this type of Catholicism in the 1970s.  I saw more changes in the Sunday Mass, where younger choir members sang from Glory and Praise.  I was one of them.

But during the weekday Masses, there was less.  Our techa (traditional lay prayer leaders) lead the congregation in novenas and devotions before Mass.  During Mass, we sang the traditional Chamorro hymns that went back many decades.  We genuflected, dipped our hands in the holy water, received on the tongue, kissed statues, lit candles. 

The home I grew up in was like a convent.  But a happy one.

I liked the Catholicism they taught me.

Hence the name of this blog.  I can be nothing other than how I was raised - kilisyåno.

This one name combines it all.  My Catholicism, since the only kilisyåno we ever knew for several centuries was the faith of Rome.  And my Chamorro upbringing, since kilisyåno is the Chamorro form of the Spanish word cristiano.  Katoliko can be found in many languages; kilisyåno only in ours.

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