Sunday, October 23, 2011


Bishop Apollinaris W. Baumgartner, OFM Cap
First Bishop of Agaña

Guam came under American control in 1898, but the Church on Guam continued under Spanish leadership till 1945 when Guam received its first - and so far only - stateside bishop. 

The US Navy had wanted to replace Guam's Spanish bishop with an American one, but World War II put that idea on hold.  But as soon as Guam was liberated, the wheels were put in motion to replace Bishop Olano with an American.

Prior to 1965, Guam was not a diocese.  It was still considered an infant local church, reliant on outside missionary help.  So it was an Apostolic Vicariate, lead by an Apostolic Vicar.  The Apostolic Vicar had the rank of a bishop, but he couldn't be called Bishop of Agaña until Agaña became a diocese.  That happened in 1965, and Baumagrtner, who had been Apostolic Vicar since 1945, became first Bishop of Agaña.

Baumgartner is rightly credited for many accomplishments, with the help of the missionaries, sisters and lay people : the founding of Catholic schools, bringing out Catholic sisters who in turn formed Chamorro sisters, the establishment of a local minor seminary, the building of churches, chapels and a medical center, the start of a Catholic weekly newspaper. 

A Baumgartner Anecdote
that gives insight into his leadership style

Not long after he took the helm of the Church on Guam in the late 1940s, Bishop Baumgartner called a meeting of his consultors, a small group of priests who acted as the bishop's advisors.  He started by saying, "I think it is time to start Catholic schools on Guam.  The question is, shall we build elementary schools first, or begin with high schools?"

It was a provocative question, with some favoring one or the other.  After some discussion, Baumgartner interjected, "Those in favor of starting with elementary schools, raise your hands."  Some did.  "Those in favor of starting with high schools, raise your hands."  Others did.

Baumgartner said, "OK, that settles it.  We'll begin with both elementary and high schools."

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