SISTER MARÍA (MARGARITA) FRÁNQUEZ AND BISHOP BAUMGARTNER
The first Catholic sisters on Guam arrived in 1905 from Baltimore, Maryland. But they left Guam in 1908.
It wasn't until 38 years later that another community of Catholic sisters, the Sisters of Mercy, came to Guam, in 1946. Finally, young Chamorro women aspiring to become Catholic sisters could join a community right here on Guam. But before that, they would have to join a convent somewhere else, hundreds and even thousands of miles away, and some did just that.
One of these young Chamorro women, feeling a call to the Catholic sisterhood, was María Pérez Fránquez from Hagåtña. She was born in 1910, the daughter of Vicente Iglesias Fránquez and Rosa Martínez Pérez.
SISTER WITH HER FRÁNQUEZ RELATIVES
Several women her age expressed a desire to the Capuchin priests and bishop on Guam to enter the convent. At the time, in the 1920s and early 1930s, the Spanish Capuchins on Guam were trying hard to get the Navy's permission for the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, a community of sisters, to come to Guam. Time and again, the US Navy denied permission.
But the Capuchins did send these young women from Guam to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary convent in the Philippines to join there. Maybe, just maybe, the US Navy would allow these sisters to come to Guam one day and there would be Chamorro sisters ready to come back home and help build the Church.
So, María Fránquez went off to the Philippines in 1933 and became Sister Margarita, FMM. Unfortunately, the US Navy never allowed the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary to come to Guam, and Sister Margarita remained in the Philippines till death.
In 1967, the strict rules of the community were relaxed a little and Sister was able to fly back to Guam for the first time since 1933 and visit her family. What a different Guam it must have been to her in 1967. She made several more visits to Guam after that.
Later, when the rules of the Sisters allowed them to return to their baptismal names, Sister became Sister María.
She lived to the ripe old age of 91, spending 67 years in the convent. She passed away in 2001, just six days after her birthday, and is buried in the convent cemetery in Tagaytay in the Philippines. Rest in peace, Sister!