Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The Bishop's Secretary

Fray Jesús de Begoña

Fray Jesus was a Basque Spaniard from the Province of Vizcaya and came to Guam in the 1920s.  He was a lay brother - not ordained.

He was stationed in Agaña and had a major role to play in building projects, like the construction of churches and chapels. 

But his main work towards the end was being the personal secretary of Bishop Olaiz and then Bishop Olano.

By September of 1941, the US Navy succeeded in replacing all the Spanish friars with the American friars.  But Bishop Olano had not been replaced yet by an American bishop, so Olano and Fray Jesus stayed on.

So they were here when the Japanese invaded Guam on December 10, 1941.  Olano was made to strip to his underwear and run a little around the Plaza de España in an attempt to mock him and show the Chamorros that the Japanese ran the show now. 

When Olano and the American friars were shipped off to Japan in January of 1942, Fray Jesus went along with the bishop.  He stayed by Bishop Olano's side the whole time of the war.  First in Japan and then in India.

When Guam was liberated from the Japanese, Olano was able to get permission from the US Navy to return to Guam, but not Fray Jesus.  He was not given permission.  So he stayed in the Philippines where he served for a very long time.

Because Fray Jesus was the shadow of the bishop, he met a lot of people, especially the elite of Guam Catholic society.  They all knew Fray Jesus, and they told me that he could speak very good Chamorro.  He kept in correspondence with some of his Guam friends for many years after the war while he lived in the Philippines.

The Humble Worker

Fray Crispín de Imbuluzqueta

Most of the lay brothers were rather simple men, most of limited education.  So they did a lot of the humble but important tasks of the mission : cooking for the priests, laundry, cleaning, running the sacristy, serving Mass, stocking the kitchen pantry, minding the altar boys (tanores), doing maintenance and even carpentry and construction.  If one of the priests was in a village far from the capital, sometimes a lay brother would go live with him to provide companionship and mind the domestic affairs of the rectory.

Fray Crispín was one of these humble, manual workers in the Catholic mission.  He served a long time on Guam, mainly at the Agaña Cathedral.

Many of the lay brothers were truly holy men.  They knew very little academically, but some were good at their crafts.  They prayed the rosary and other devotions and served Mass and did the humble work.  It is said in the Franciscan life that it is the lay brothers who keep the true Franciscan spirit alive.  Among our Capuchin saints and blessed, a great many of them were not priests but these humble and holy lay brothers who begged for food among the people or took care of the people who came to visit the friary.

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