A U.S. territory in the far west Pacific, Guam is the native island of Chamorros, whose culture weaves aspects their own pre-colonial values with influences of Spaniards, Filipinos, Mexicans and mainland Americans. Chamorro identity has long been deeply intertwined with Catholicism, and still is, though Guam is a pluralistic society and its economy relies on the U.S. military bases there and tourism from several parts of East Asia.
Attraction to prosperity is transforming the island population over time: many Chamorros have moved to the mainland, while Filipinos and Micronesians have taken their place, making Chamorros a minority on their own island. Still, their values shape the Church. Chamorros hold tight to what is most important — family, respect for elders, faith, and respect for the dead. The ideal of Catholic practice in Guam is “respectful, not ostentatious.”
Guam’s matrilineal history is manifest in the roles women are traditionally granted as techas, prayer leaders for particular occasions; in the primacy of Marian devotion, particularly to Our Lady of Kamalen, regarded as patroness and protector of the island; and in the religious importance of promesas and intregas, promises passed down across generations of women to carry on particular devotions.
In the last several years, Guam has struggled through a major sexual abuse crisis that has caught up its now-deposed bishop, but it has not affected participation in the Church as it has in places like Ireland and the United States.
In the News
- Guam’s Catholics reckon with decades of ‘horrific’ sex abuse - Crux - August 8, 2019