Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award honors an individual or group working in one of America’s mission dioceses who demonstrates how the power of faith can trans- form lives and communities. Lumen Christi recipients are the hidden heroes in our midst. They bring light and hope to the forgotten corners of our country and inspire those around them to be the “Light of Christ” as well.
Mrs. Rita Cabrera Guerrero
It is with pride and honor that the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa presents Mrs. Rita Cabrera Guerrero as our nominee for the Lumen Christi Award 2018-2019. Mrs. Guerrero has served the diocese for over 30 years in different capacities, from the parish to the diocesan level, from being a dedicated parish CCD catechist and liturgical lay minister to being the official diocesan liturgical translator of the Chamorro language.
Preservation of language and culture, preservation of faith
The Chamorros (indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, including Guam) has a rich Catholic heritage as a fruit of more than 300 years of Spanish colonization. From the very beginning of the evangelization of the Mariana Islands (initially named, Las Islas de los Ladrones), Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, who is considered the Apostle of the Marianas, along with the first missionaries, sought to announce the Gospel through the native tongue. Jesuit records show that Fr. San Vitores sought to transcribe the local language so that the missionaries may be able to learn how to speak Chamorro and to translate Catholic hymns, catechisms and basic prayers. They believe that speaking the natural tongue of the Chamorros is a sign of love to the people and to the mission.
When the Americans took over the Mariana Islands, literacy of the language has dropped precipitously, largely because of common use of American english throughout the Mariana Islands. At some point, the locals were even prohibited to speak Chamorro in public setting. The language was still commonly used among Chamorro households in the Northern Marianas and Guam but with the secularization and globalization it is becoming extinct.
Interestingly, it was the Catholic Church who have helped preserve the Chamorrro language and with it the culture and the basic Catholic family values. Thanks to many liturgical texts, hymns, and prayers translated in Chamorro, the islands have managed to keep the language alive until today.
Among those who have greatly contributed in the preservation of Chamorro language through the liturgical and religious texts was the late Bishop Emeritus Tomas Aguon Camacho, D.D., who was the first bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa. Most, if not all Chamorro translation of the official liturgical books were done under his supervision. he made an effort to promote their language so as to preserve their cultural fabric that enables them to identify with Chamorro values and traditions. One of his most trusted collaborators in the tedious work of translation is Mrs. Rita Cabrera Guerrero. She helped Bishop Camacho in translating into Chamorro the new edition of the Roman Missal, the Lectionary, and the New Testament Bible. The translations of these important liturgical books made possible the celebration of the Mass today in the vernacular.
In 2014, with the health of Bishop Camacho declining, she was appointed Official Diocesan Translator. With the retired bishop as her editor and consultor, she continued revising the Chamorro Lectionary for the Sunday Readings. her current translation is used not only within the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa but also in
the Archdiocese of Agaña in Guam. Mrs. Guerrero’s excellent command of the language enable her also to teach and assist non-Chamorro priests so that they can celebrate Mass in the vernacular. with the recent passing of Bishop emeritus Tomas Aguon Camacho, the translation work on the Old Testament is temporarily put on hold until a new pastor is appointed to guide her.
her translation of the different novena booklets is a tremendous bene t for the local church. Devotion to the saints is one of the important part of the spirituality and faith of the Chamorros. Common family and parish gatherings are centered on the various novenas throughout the liturgical year. The ability to express their devotions in their own native tongue means a lot for the simple faith of the Chamorros.
A devoted Volunteer
In August of 2016 the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa witnessed the episcopal Ordination of its second bishop, Most Reverend Ryan P. Jimenez, D.D. Immediately after his ordination he embarked on the task of formulating a diocesan pastoral plan in consultation with the faithful. Last December 2017, the Five-Year Diocesan Pastoral Plan was launched with the following as ministry priorities:
• Evangelization and Faith Formation
• Marriage and Family Life
• Social Justice and OutreachMrs. Guerrero is appointed as one of the committee members under the Liturgy ministry priority. Her main task is to ensure that there is a Chamorro translation of the liturgical books that will be used in the celebrations making them accessible to the locals.
A dedicated Catechist
The Religious Education Program of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, though directed and guided by the religious for the past years, is dependent mainly on volunteers as CCD Coordinators. Their main task is to oversee that the Diocesan policies and programs are well disseminated in the parishes. They coordinate primarily to their pastors, attend the monthly meetings in the Diocese and conduct regular encounters with the catechists and orientation programs with the parents.
Mrs. Guerrero is one of the Coordinators who, in her outstanding attitude of selfless service works for all catechists and co-coordinators, exudes the joy which encourages, up- lifts, and heightens everyone’s ability to serve and be part of the CCD program. Mrs. Guerrero began her voluntary work in her parish at San Vicente as a CCD teacher since 1987. She has done an exemplary task of imparting the faith to the young with the joyful conviction that each soul is important. She really makes sure that the kids and the young people are well instructed in the faith and that she always make time to talk to the parents explaining to them the importance of bringing their children to religion classes and accompanying them to Church to attend the mass.
She is also mindful of the catechists who are helping in the parish. She knows their struggles not only in teaching the young, but to their own personal struggles in life. She would always try to offer help in the best way she can. One parishioner commented: “Rita is always available in helping everybody in the parish including the priests.”
Aside from being the coordinator, she is also teaching the holy Communion class, which she enjoyed very much. If there are kids who cannot make it to the regular classes she would really allot time for makeup classes. Such, for her, is an act of love. She even offers ride to the students who for some reasons cannot be brought by their parents to the church.
At present, the Office of Religious Education is providing an ongoing formation for the catechists and Mrs. Guerrero is actively sup- porting the office since she knew how important it is for the catechists not only to know but to be formed in faith. She would always offer help in whatever way she can without complaining and she en- courages and welcome people to do the same. She would never forget to say “thank you” for whatever things that the person has done for her and for the church.
An Active Parish lay Minister
Mrs. Rita Cabrera Guerrero is also an active Lay minister of the Eucharist in the parish and attends the mass almost every day. She even attends two masses if the priest needs help during Sundays, special occasions and death anniversaries where there are plenty of people attending the mass.
A loving Mother and Wife
Mrs. Guerrero’s responsibility as a wife, mother and a grandmother was not left undone in spite of the demands of her ministries. Married to Antonio Guerrero for almost 50 years, she still manages to accompany him in the consecutive medical referrals that he needs to undergo because of his sickness. She is also very much involved in her children’s joy and struggles in life and helping them is one of her top priorities. Her grandchildren love her so much that they enjoy staying in grandma and grandpa’s house during vacations. She also makes time to attend important events in school making them feel that they too are very special.
She is indeed a gift to the parish of San Vicente and to the Diocese as well. She shows how much she loves the ministry and the people under her care. her humility is so contagious that creates a tremendous effect in other people’s lives. we might forget what she said and done but her presence will forever be remembered. A woman with a big heart and a great faith.