Mother Margarita gave twenty years of her life to education. She was of course, an outstanding educator, but more than that, she cared about the destiny of her pupils. When speaking about her pupils to her sister Leonor, she said: “I like to educate them individually, personally. May Our Lord give me some of His zeal and self-denial so that I can form each of them in Christ’s image.” And God did give her this zeal. Today, the Mercedarian Sisters have schools in different parts of the world, such as Japan, Mexico and Pohnpei where they commit their lives to bringing the world closer to the plan of God for humanity. Their influence has been passed down through the generations, and their work on Saipan is no exception. Below is a beautiful testimony of how the education of the Mercedarians has changed lives.
Dear Fellow Mount Carmel School AlumKnights,
The serendipities of history cannot always be dismissed as mere accidents of time. Ofttimes, divine providence plays a much bigger role than we realize, and we need only take a step back to get a broader view of history to see that providence at work. Indeed, given enough time, that divine providence manifests itself as legacies that change the very course of history, touch thousands of lives, and make us who we are today. One such legacy is that of Blessed Mother Margarita Maturana.
As a proud AlumKnight of Mount Carmel School, I have made this school my home, so far spending 33 years of my life here as a student, teacher, adviser, and leader. In that time, I have developed a deep appreciation for the legacy that we have all inherited from our founding father, Father Arnold Bendowsky, and our founding mothers, the sisters of the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz (MMB). It is a legacy that began long before the school opened its doors in 1952.
Crossing two oceans and three continents on October 30, 1927, Sisters Loreto Zubia, Inocencia Urizar, Pilar Lorenzo, Maria Teresa Cortazar and Aurora Chopitea set sail from their motherhouse of Berriz in the north of Spain and arrived on Saipan on March 4, 1928. Fifteen days later, on the Feast of Saint Joseph, they opened their first school. While the onset of the Great Depression and World War II hampered the growth of education on the island, the Mercedarian Sisters continued their ministry, teaching doctrina and offering classes in Spanish, music, the arts, and later, cooking and sewing.
Surviving the tragedy of war, in 1951, the Mercedarian sisters opened Our Lady of Mercy Kindergarten, which we now know as the Sister Remedios early Childhood Development Center. That kindergarten would set the stage for Mount Carmel School, providing the first batch of first grade students when the school opened the following year, 1952.
The Mercedarian Sisters continued to play a critical role in the growth of Mount Carmel School, with teachers and educational leader like Sister Ana Maria, the first school superior, and Sisters Dolores Larranaga and Pia Goichoechea, the school’s first teachers. As the school grew, so did the commitment of the Mercedarian Sisters. In 1953, Sister Bertha Salazar became the first principal and taught second grade. In the next two years, Sisters Soledad Castro, Mary Margaret, and Concepcion Borja joined the teaching faculty. Years later, under the tutelage of Sisters Mary Louise Balzarini and Mary Margaret Sneddon, the school’s first high school students would go on to join the first cohort of students to ever enroll in the school in the school’s first graduation.
Since those early years, the Mercedarian Sisters have continued to play an important role in Mount Carmel School, with iconic teachers like Sister Martha Ramarui, Sister Pilar, and Sister MaryAnn Hartmann teach- ing, guiding, and inspiring generations of AlumKnights. To this day, our Knights continue to grow spiritually as they engage in spiritual retreats up at the Maturana House of Prayer in Navy Hill. And throughout the years, as the pioneers in education here on Saipan, the Mercedarian Siststers have moulded and cultivated some of our island’s most notable leaders in business, government, and community. Indeed, it is no understatement to say that our islands would not be where they are today if it weren’t for the Mercedarian Sisters, as countless Knights and AlumKnights owe so much of who they are and what they’ve accomplished to these dedicated sisters.
On a personal note, I too owe so much of who I am today to the role that the Mercedarian Sisters have played in my life. As a student at Mount Carmel School, there were many times when I should have been suspended or even expelled, but teachers like Sister Martha and leaders like Sister Mary Louise not only kept me out of trouble, but they found something good in me, and cultivated that. They understood that I was merely acting out because of turbulence at home, and so they set out to guide me and nurture me and love me. Sister Mary Louise encouraged me to publish and learn graphic design, helping me and my class- mates with our student newspaper in junior high school. To this day, I publish all of Mount Carmel School’s print and digital media, including our social media outlets. In high school, Sister Martha introduced me to speech and debate, helping me participate in my first debate, and to this day, I deliver speeches and have coached hundreds of students in speech and debate.
But the influence of these Mercedarian sisters did not stop after I graduated from Mount Carmel. Years later, when I became a parent, Sister Mary Louise and Sister Martha would continue to bless my life by serving as principals for Sister Remedios early Childhood Development center, where my wife and I sent our eldest daughter and only son. Under their leadership and tutelage, our kids learned how to read, how to take care of themselves, and how to take care of others. Our kids were blessed by their loving stewardship, just as I was blessed.
Considering all of this, it is no exaggeration to say that Sister Mary Louise and Sister Martha were angels who performed miracles in my life.
Now, as we come together to help Blessed Mother Margarita Maturana be canonized, and as I take a broad view of history, I see clearly that Sister Mary Louise, Sister Martha, and all their fellow Mercedarian sisters, would not have changed our lives if Mother Margarita had not changed their lives. Her faith—in God, in her sisters, and in what good could be done in the world—led to a legacy that has touched thousands of lives. It is now our turn to demonstrate our faith by doing all that we can to honor and recognize and love her. As a saint, Mother Margarita will be able to inspire more people and change more lives and help us all. As heirs of her legacy, it is incumbent upon all of us to fulfill that legacy by doing all that we can to help in this effort.
Let us PRAY that her Cause of Canonization will one day be a reality.
Sincerely in Christ,
Galvin Deleon Guerrero
1991 AlumKnight President
Mount Carmel School