Wednesday, November 2, 2011


November 2, 1769

Map of the Marianas based on information obtained by the
Jesuit Missionaries in the Marianas

On November 2, 1769, a small schooner, the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe arrived on Guam, bringing Spanish authorities sent to round up the small group of Jesuit priests and one brother in the Marianas and remove them.  Their crime?  Being Jesuits.  The Marianas were given over to another missionary group - the Augustinian Recollects.

What did the Jesuits do to merit this expulsion, when it was the Jesuits who founded the mission in the first place, shedding much blood to do so?

The Society of Jesus, its formal name, was by the 1760s, a very large and powerful organization.  It had much prestige and influence, running schools for the elite in Europe, as well as for ordinary students.  It was responsible for many missions all over the world.  Jesuit chaplains and spiritual directors walked the halls of palaces and government offices, with the ear of important political people.  All this would be naturally resented by some, who also turned the wheels of European politics.  None of this had anything to do with the work of the majority of ordinary Jesuits teaching classes and working in far-flung missions.  But they were all made to pay the political price.  One by one, Catholic kings banished the Jesuits from their realms, including their colonies.

Communications with the isolated Marianas were so slow that the royal order from Spain did not reach Guam till two years' time.  The Jesuits were to be put in custody and removed from the Marianas within 24 hours, taking with them only their personal effects and prayer books.

The Jesuit superior of Guam, Father Franz Stengel, was in Rota when the schooner came.  So a canoe was dispatched there to fetch him and bring him to Guam immediately.  A Jesuit on the list had died after the list was composed, and a certification of death had to be written to explain why the dead man was not brought to Manila with the others.

The weren't all Spanish priests!

The Jesuits in the Marianas were down to four men in 1768, a year before they were expelled; three priests and one brother.

Fr. Franz Stengel was Superior (Vice Provincial) and pastor of Hagatña.

Fr. Franz Reitemberg was Rector of the College (San Juan de Letran).

Fr. Rafael Canicia was in charge of the south - Humatak, Malesso' and Inalahan.

Br. Placido Lampurdanes ran the pharmacy in Hagatña and was a medical practitioner of sorts.

Who was in charge of Rota, the only other inhabited island?  Since none is mentioned, we would assume one of the three priests went up to Rota periodically, as we can see when Stengel was in Rota when the schooner came to Guam to deport him.

One of them (not Stengel) had died by 1769, and it was more than likely Reitemberg, from what I can gather from some sources.

Notice the German names of Stengel and Reitemberg. They were from Bohemia, then part of the Habsburg Empire which also ruled Spain.  Father Canicia was a Spaniard (Valencian) and so was Brother Lampurdanes (Aragon).

Thus ended a 100 year history of the Jesuits as the missionaries of the Marianas which had begun in 1668 with Sanvitores.  They put into Recollect hands two islands, Guam and Rota, their churches, one school (Colegio de San Juan de Letran) and the several ranches the school ran and a pharmacy.

A Jesuit in typical and distinctive Jesuit garb of the 1600s
Claudio Aquaviva, Jesuit General

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