Nun: We did not want to lie for Apuron, Sammut over Yona seminary property

By Haidee V Eugenio
Pacific Daily News
November 15, 2016

Mother Superior Dawn Marie speaks during a press conference at the Solitude of Carmel monastery in Tamuning on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016.
Photo by Rick Cruz

[with video]

Carmelite nuns donated the $2 million used by the Archdiocese of Agana to buy a former hotel in Yona, and they considered suing the church after finding out the property was not being used by the archdiocese, but for a seminary operated by the Neocatechumenal Way, said Mother Superior Dawn Marie, of the Carmelite Monastery on Guam.

She said Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, the Rev. Pius Sammut and others in 2014 tried to get the Carmelites to lie, by saying the Carmelites had purposely earmarked their gift for the use of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and for the Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores Catholic Theological Institute for Oceania.

The mother superior was the person who got the Carmelite nuns in the United States to donate $2 million to the archdiocese on Guam to buy the Yona property over a decade ago.

She said the identity of the donors at the time was supposed to be anonymous, but Apuron and others violated that agreement from the beginning, she said.

One day in 2014, she was in the United States having an informal meeting with the leader of the Carmelite Sisters community that donated the funds when that leader received an email from Apuron. The two mother superiors read Apuron’s email at the same time, she said.

“Archbishop Anthony Apuron had asked the sisters who had given the gift to say that they had purposely earmarked that gift for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary and for the San Vitores Theological Institute of Oceania. That was completely untrue,”  the Carmelite mother superior said during a news conference at the Carmelite monastery in Tamuning Tuesday morning.

Mother Superior Dawn Marie said when she came back to Guam, she personally asked Apuron about his questionable decisions related to the property, including his decision to reveal that the nuns had donated the money.

“Why did you send that letter indicating that we had donated that property and allowing for the deed of restriction when you know it was not true? He reacted, he said, ‘I’m not the one who did it. Pius and they did it. They framed the letter,'” the Carmelite mother said.

In November 2011, Apuron signed a declaration deeding away the property indefinitely to the seminary and the theological institute. Apuron sent the letter to the donors when his decision became public knowledge. His 2011 decision was against the advice and consent of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, which he later on fired en masse.

The mother superior said the Carmelite sisters thought about filing a lawsuit because of what Apuron, Sammut and others did but decided against it to avoid further problems within the archdiocese. But she said the truth has to be told.

She said it’s “too bad” that Sammut and others prepared the letter that Apuron sent. She said the Carmelite sisters in the states completely denied the request and sent a letter back to Apuron, stating the nuns were not aware of the seminary and the theological institute, and that they don’t appreciate the deed of restriction in perpetuity put over the Yona property.

“Pretty toxic environment for the nuns to live in. Because the gift was an anonymous gift from the very beginning, that anonymity was not respected by the archbishop. So many people knew and misunderstood that the Carmelites in Malojloj had donated the $2 million. The Carmelite community in Guam hadn’t even have a savings account,” she said.

She said Sammut and others had talked about the donor of the $2 million for years, as well as the shadow person who made that donation possible.

“Father Pius said that ‘he’ was the donor and he is still alive and he may cause a lawsuit. There was no ‘he.’ It was a she and it was me. So the truth of where the money came from is as easy as that. I didn’t want to engage myself any further. I wanted to preserve my quiet life,” she said.

Sammut, former rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, was sought for comment on Mother Superior Dawn Marie’s statement but no comment was obtained as of press time. Sammut said in October he is an itinerant catechist, part of the team responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam.

For years, the Neocatechumenal Way controlled and owned the seminary and theological institute which both sit on the property the Carmelite sisters paid for.

Carmelites left Guam

The Carmelites, who have been on Guam since 1966, have left because of what the mother superior described as a "toxic environment" when Apuron agreed to put a deed of restriction on the Yona property in November 2011, as well as the multiple sex abuse allegations against Apuron, she said.

Apuron is now facing a canonical trial in Rome over these alleged sex abuse of minors in the 1970s.

The mother superior said she is the last Carmelite on island. The rest left in June and moved to another Carmelite monastery in California.

“The move to go to California was a very difficult one,” she added.

The Carmelites left Guam on the 50th year of the Carmelites’ arrival on island, from Malaysia. They had a seminary in Malojloj for 40 years until they moved to Tamuning around 2006.

As of today, there is no longer a contemplative monastery on Guam, she said.

She said she has decided to come forward now about the Yona property and the $2 million donation since the rest of the Carmelite sisters have already left the island, and the Carmelite sisters in the states want the archdiocese to take back full control of the Yona property.

A few hours after Mother Superior Dawn Marie talked to reporters, the Archdiocese of Agana called a separate news conference to announce that the archdiocese, under Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, has taken back full ownership and control of the Yona seminary property without filing any lawsuit.

The timing of the two press conferences was only coincidental, they said.

The mother superior thanked Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai for his help. She said the Carmelite sisters will continue to pray for the archdiocese and Guam.

“At some point, when you fall down so flat, there’s only one way to go, the direction has to be up,” she said, adding that she hopes Guam will have a new era when Archbishop Byrnes arrives on island.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.