Sunday, December 18, 2011


Died on December 18, 1970

If you go (or went) to Father Dueñas, the Academy and several other Catholic schools; if you read the church weekly, the Umatuna si Yu'us; if you were ordained a diocesan priest between 1950 and 1970; if you attend Mass at the Cathedral - you have Bishop Baumgartner to thank for it.

He arrived in 1945 with a gargantuan task - to lay the foundations for a diocese on an island devastated by war; where almost everything had to be shipped in; without a huge population with enough local money to pay for it all; with one Chamorro priest at the time; no Chamorro sisters; where the Navy had to be appeased at almost every turn to get the necessary permissions.

What he had going for him was the strong Catholic faith of the majority; his network of mainland friends and contacts; and a robust Capuchin province in Detroit and then New York that could send missionaries and cover part of the expenses.  The friars manned almost all the parishes, which included the Northern Marianas after the war.  The Stigmatines came to staff Father Dueñas.  A minor seminary was opened and young Chamorro men began priestly training.  The Mercy Sisters came, followed by the Notre Dame Sisters, and staffed the parochial schools and recruited Chamorro sisters.  The church newspaper was founded; a Catholic clinic eventually came about.  By 1965, we became a diocese.

Baumgartner was burdened with hypertension since the day, more or less, he arrived.  Some of his letters in the 1950s speak about his blood pressure being in the neighborhood of 190/120.  But his health did not seriously decline till the late 1960s.  On December 9, 1968, Baumgartner was relieved of his administrative responsibilities, which were transferred to Bishop Pearce of Fiji and then to Monsignor Felixberto Flores.  In May of 1970, Flores was consecrated a bishop, with Baumgartner remaining Bishop of Agaña while Flores managed the actual administration of the diocese.

He was a no-nonsense, stoic, administrator who was weak on the personal connection with people and even many clergy.  He never learned to speak Chamorro.  But he knew its value and would have Monsignor Calvo, and later Flores, follow his English remarks with a Chamorro summary.  He made sure Chamorro articles were put in the church weekly.  Like all the authorities at the time, including the civil and professional ones, he promoted the advance of English.  He wasn't the kind of bishop who went out among the people, not even among the elite.  When he wanted, he called you to his residence. 

But he got things done and the results of his efforts are still visible today.

U såga gi minahgong.
Requiescat in pace.

No comments:

Post a Comment