Sunday, April 15, 2012


Yesterday we had Mass in Sumay.

Sumay was the second biggest village on Guam, after Hagåtña, before the war.  Its vitality was linked to its location on Orote peninsula and Apra Harbor.  The Marines and Navy had their installations; the Trans-Pacific Cable Company and Pan American Airlines had their commercial presence as well.  When you first arrived on Guam, whether on a military or commercial transport, Sumay was the first place you touched ground.

If an ancient village once existed, we know next to nothing about it.  By the time the whalers were coming to Guam in significant numbers in the early 1800s, a village seems to have been created in Sumay by Hagåtña transplants.  For years dependent on nearby Hågat for religious services, it was given its own parish, named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been the patron of the now-defunct village of Pågo, abandoned after the smallpox epidemic of 1856.

When the Americans took Guam from the Japanese in 1944, they did not allow the Sumay people to return.  This was the first large-scale military build-up in Guam history.  The entire peninsula was made a naval base.  The Sumay people were relocated to Santa Rita.

But the hearts of many Sumay people remain in their original village.  Several times a year, the Navy allows them to return and have Mass, visit the cemetery and have lunch.

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