Wednesday, October 26, 2011


October 26, 1945

A few days after American Bishop Baumgartner arrived, Spanish Bishop Olano left Guam on this day 66 years ago.  That marked the end of 277 years of Spanish missionary presence on Guam!  To this day, though, all those years of Spanish influence can still be seen in our Chamorro-style Catholicism, though it has weakened over the years.

Bishop without a Diocese...

When Olano left Guam, there was some difficulty where he should go next.  He was a Spanish citizen, but a Basque in ethnicity.  Many of the Basques, though fervent Catholics, opposed the government of Francisco Franco in Spain, who supported the Church against the anti-clerical leftist parties in Spain.  These Basque nationalists wanted either an independent Basque State or one with much freedom from Madrid.

One of Olano's brothers, also a Capuchin priest, was such a promoter of the Basque cause that he had to flee Spain when Franco took power.  Although Bishop Olano was not involved in these political issues, his blood ties with his well-known brother made him hesitant to return to Spain.  Perhaps even the Spanish government would have pressured the bishop to look for another residence elsewhere.

Bishop Olano went to Manila, where he was of some assistance in a post-war country where American bishops and priests had been imprisoned by the Japanese.  He did confirmations and helped in other ways, but he was, for the rest of his life, a bishop without a diocese.  That couldn't have been easy for him.

I was only 8 years old, but I remember meeting him the one and only time in my life.  He returned to Guam in 1970 for the consecration of Bishop Flores and my elderly granduncle and grandaunt took me to the ceremony.  Afterwards, they went up to greet Bishop Olano and they told me who he was.  He looked at me and I looked at him, and that was it.

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