Sisters of Mercy rejoice in 70 years of service in Guam

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The Sisters of Mercy celebrated the 70th anniversary of their foundation in Guam with a Ritual of Remembrance honoring their departed sisters followed by Mass Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna. A table of remembrance of Mercy Sisters who have died is framed by portraits of the order’s foundress, Catherine McAuley at left, the first Sisters to travel to Guam, center, and Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner who invited them here, right. (Photo for the Umatuna by Frankie Casil/qcasil75@gmail.com)

By Tony C. Diaz
Umatuna Si Yu’os

Mercy has a face. It’s each and every one of us.

It’s at the heart of who the Sisters of Mercy are as well and last weekend members of the religious order on island celebrated their 70th year anniversary of bringing the love and mercy of Christ to the people of Guam and the Marianas.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB was the presider during Mass held Saturday Nov. 5, 2016 at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagatna to celebrate the Sisters of Mercy 70th jubilee of their foundation on Guam. About one dozen clergy concelebrated.

Hundreds of relatives, friends, supporters and members of other religious orders joined the celebration which began with a touching memorial service honoring the Sisters of Mercy who have since entered eternal life.

Among the many who received prayers and thanksgiving during the Ritual of Remembrance were Sister Mary Inez Underwood, Sister Mary Annette Bennett, and Sister Mary Louise Weisenforth along with Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner.

Seventy years ago, on November 5, 1946, the first Sisters of Mercy arrived on Guam as the religious order responded to an -invitation from Bishop Baumgartner to come to our island.

It was the trio of Sisters Mary Inez, Mary Annette, and Mary Louise who first set foot on Guam. 

“These three Sisters of Mercy responded in courageous faith to the call to serve in this remote part of the Western Pacific,” said Sister Marian Therese Arroyo, the new Guam Mercy Administrator during the Ritual of Remembrance.

The Sisters of Mercy gather with Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB, Guam clergy and seminarian Junee Valencia after the 70th year Jubilee Mass in the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica. (Photo for the Umatuna by Frankie Casil. )
The Sisters of Mercy gather with Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB, Guam clergy and seminarian Junee Valencia after the 70th year Jubilee Mass in the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica. (Photo for the Umatuna by Frankie Casil. )

“Seventy years ago, Guam was recovering and, like the image of a Phoenix, rising from the disaster of World War II,” she added. “Bishop Apollinaris Baumgartner, invited religious orders to share in the challenging mission of rebuilding the island, catechizing our people and strengthening the Catholic way of life on Guam. The seeds of faith that were sown then have grown and flourished over these 7 decades.”

Soon after their arrival, they received 10 local girls as postulants, and later, many more daughters of Guam found their vocation in the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

The Sisters of Mercy will mark their jubilee with a year-long celebration. Just as the Archdiocese of Agana is preparing to close its 50th jubilee of the foundation as a diocese this month and the Church worldwide will conclude the memorable Jubilee Year of Mercy in December, the Sisters of Mercy have begun their jubilee celebration.

“Holy Father, Pope Francis, in proclaiming the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of our merciful God,” said Sister Marian. “Made in the image and likeness of God, we too have the capacity to reflect the face of our merciful God to one another.”

A beautiful table of remembrance toward the front of the Cathedral-Basilica sanctuary was framed by portraits of Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy as well as the three pioneer sisters who arrived on Guam and Bishop Baumgartner.

Names of all the late Sisters of Mercy, late bishops of Guam, first priests of Guam some of the early priests on Guam and late Mercy Associates were softly announced one by one as the congregation responded with “We pray and remember.”

Following the prayer, different representatives, family members and Sisters of Mercy lit candles and placed them one by one on the table.

Wonderful voices of children from the honor choirs of the different Sisters of Mercy schools (Academy of Our Lady, Bishop Baumgartner, Santa Barbara and St. Anthony) meshed with those of the Agana choir of Emmaus and friends to fill the Cathedral-Basilica with uplifting songs and music of praise to Our Lord.

Father Felix Leon Guerrero, OFM Cap. was the homilist and shared that he was a proud product of a Sisters of Mercy school, St. Anthony in Tamuning.

Discussing the Gospel of Luke 20:27-38, the “Question about the Resurrection”, the Capuchin emphasized the importance of married couples consecrated in Christ and the grace they’ve been called to share in God’s miracle of life.

“When God has brought forth a man and a woman and brings them together through the Sacrament of Matrimony, the Sacrament of Marriage, God wants the couple to grow in love for each other,” said Father Felix.

“And within that love as husband and wife they are to sanctify each other,” he emphasized. “They are to make each other holy. When they become holy within that marriage, the result of their love is another life. A child.”

“Because now the child will grow up and will learn what love truly is, from the mother and the father,” said Father Felix. “So now, the mother, the father, the child, the family are supposed to help each one become sanctified. There are to help each other to become holy.”

This is so important for all of us in the Church, said Father Felix, because “each family reflects the images of who God is.”

The Capuchin echoed the words “God is love” found in the Gospel of John. He said since God himself is Love. He said in order for God to love, he has to have someone to give that love. “So, his love points outward,” he said. “God’s love always radiates us.”

Father Felix expressed his gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy for their decades of nurturing the love of God to all of us on Guam. “Throughout all these 70 years of the life of the Sisters here on our island, they have definitely made an impact,” on thousands of people here, he said.