Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Episcopal Bishop Charles Henry Brent

When the United States took over Guam and the Philippines in 1898, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. took an interest in sending a missionary bishop to the Philippines.  Brent was chosen in 1901 for the job.  But Brent also had a brief visit to Guam in 1909.

Many Episcopalians had, and still have, an affinity for the Catholic Church on account of their mutual love for liturgy.  By the time Brent came to visit Guam, the local Protestant mission, run by American Protestants of a more evangelical view, was slowing down and the American missionary organization that funded the Guam mission was looking for a new church body to assume responsibility for Guam.

It was hoped that Brent would, upon visiting Guam, urge his own Episcopal Church to take over the Guam Protestant mission.

Brent, however, took the opposite view.  He said that the Chamorros of Guam were already Christians and didn't need a Protestant mission.

Brent was no complete fan of the type of Hispanic Catholicism he saw in both the Philippines and Guam.  His view was that the Philippine revolt against Spain was due in large part to the political and economic power of the Spanish friars, and to the moral corruption found among a good number of them.

But, even in the Philippines, he concentrated his missionary efforts among the remote communities that had not become Christian of any sort.  He might want Catholics in these islands to come closer to his idea of right Christian practice, but he didn't want to steal sheep from the Catholic Church.

Things were not exactly the same on Guam as they were in the Philippines.  Here, the Church never owned large plantations reaping good income for the missionaries.  Some of the Recollect missionaries in the Marianas had a bad reputation among the American military officers, but they were replaced by Capuchin missionaries who had a better image with the government.

Guam also had one Chamorro priest - the first - Monsignor Jose Palomo.  Brent happened to be on Guam right when Palomo celebrated his Golden Jubilee of ordination.  Brent met Palomo and, as did almost everyone who met Palomo, was won over by his gentle charm.

Brent wrote, "May he (Palomo) live to celebrate among his devoted flock a diamond jubilee; and the best wish that I could offer for the well being of the church which he represents, is that from the Chamorro people there should be raised up other priests such as he in piety, uprightness and benevolence, to hold the ecclesiastical oversight of Guam." (Guam Newsletter, December 23, 1909, p. 3)

Clearly, Brent did not want to replace the Catholic Church but rather to see the Catholic Church on Guam ruled by a native hierarchy.  His wish came true in 1970 with the consecration of Bishop Felixberto Camacho Flores.

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