The Redemptoris Mater Seminary was established more than 17 years ago for the formation of new diocesan priests and the further evangelization of Guam and the region. By the end of this year, it will have closed and will bring to an end another chapter in the college's controversial history.
The closure may come as a relief for some in an island Catholic community shaken by decades worth of sexual abuse allegations against clergy with the man at the church's forefront - Archbishop Anthony Apuron himself - toppled by the same allegations.
The seminary is nearly synonymous with Apuron and the Neocatecumenal Way - a view of the Catholic faith sometimes at odds with traditional Catholics on Guam for differences in how they practice Mass.
The potential sale of the former Accion Hotel property that houses the seminary, to finance a settlement in the more than 130 abuse cases, may appear as retribution against voices that have spoken for Apuron and the Way.
The original articles of incorporation for the seminary state that its purpose is to prepare priests following the life and practice of the Way.
The articles were amended after the arrival of Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes to remove mention of the Way entirely from the seminary's purpose. It was also Byrnes who ultimately decided to close the seminary's doors.
David Sablan, president of the Concerned Catholics of Guam and one of the critics of Apuron and the Way, praised the decision.
"Had it not been for a few individuals who saw what was truly happening within the Apuron Chancery, and stepped up to expose it, the (Way) would have taken over this archdiocese from within," Sablan told the Post.
Members of the CCOG have made themselves available to the public eye through weekly protests outside the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña - a practice that only recently ended as the group awaits the results of Apuron's tribunal at the Vatican.
Members of the Way, on the other hand, have maintained a more discreet profile, save for the few willing to brave the media spotlight and those that frequent online blogs to speak on happenings in the Way and, occasionally, exchange retorts with those opposed to their expression of faith.
"We were looking for a seminary place and when we found out that (Accion) was for sale, (Archbishop Apuron) said, 'Why don't we just submit a bid?'" said Dr. Ricardo Eusebio, a member of the Way and seminary board before it was disbanded in the transition to Byrnes' administration.
"It was $1.9 million that we submitted and we all cracked up, because we knew it was $60 million to $70 million that it was in the market for ... I was in clinic and then I got called ... I came to (the chancery) late. I sat in the back and they said, 'They accepted our bid.' I was totally blown away."
The old Accion Hotel was a Japanese investment in the early 2000's that turned unprofitable. A Sept. 9 article from the Vatican Insider attempts to retrace the transfer of the property to the Archdiocese of Agana and how these events allegedly relate to the sexual abuse allegations that manifested years later. Eusebio said the understanding at the time of the sale was that the investors wanted to provide a charitable contribution rather than sell at the market price, as a measure of "saving face."
"That's the reason why they accepted the lower bid from the church ... and I couldn't believe it, that they would take something like that. But they did," Eusebio said.
Byrnes arrived on Guam as Apuron's replacement while the Vatican determines his guilt or innocence in the allegations against him. Byrnes said the reason for the seminary closure is that its "model" for producing priests was no longer sustainable. Seminarians and priests working at the college were informed of the closure in early October, the same day a press conference was held to announce the matter.
The seminary is reportedly able to sustain itself financially through donations and, despite what is stated in canon law, the priests working there have not been paid for about a year, according to Rev. Miguel Cervantes, the director of studies. The Archdiocese told the Post that the seminary is responsible for compensating its priests. Cervantes did state that the seminary provides for his food and other needs but this is apart from a salary required by canon law.
But pending payments don't form the director's main concerns. Cervantes has spent the last two decades on Guam, having come from Spain. The island is in need of a seminary, he said.
"We don't agree, but we will obey," he added. "To close the seminary will be a tragedy for Guam and the Pacific because of all the problems we see: divorce, abortion, broken families drugs and suicide ... I have seen the church attendance go down for so long, way before any scandal in the local church ... that's going to be the tragedy."
Cervantes also adheres to the Way and so do most of the priests serving at the seminary.
Byrnes said the Way is on Guam under the disposition of the archbishop and the fate of the Way will be discussed at a later time.
But Eusebio said he has no concern about the future of the movement.
"He cannot stop the Way even though he doesn't like us,"Eusebio told the Post. "He can prevent us from meeting in the Church, but we can always meet in homes."