This Week Marks Soft Opening Church Museum and Unveiling of Rare Sacred Artifacts

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Hagatna, Guam – Roughly 7,000 square feet of black marble compose the floor of the National Museum of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in central Hagåtña.  The repository’s lush interior may be tiny compared to the urban sprawl surrounding it. But it fittingly honors the heartbeat of Guam’s rich religious heritage, the Roman Catholic faith. Throughout the capital city of Guam, metro-wide restoration is underway.

Meanwhile, a small band of devotees are carrying out the work of the museum’s opening with missionary zeal – generously supported by a community of sponsors and other volunteers. And while meager in size compared to the grand exhibit halls of the world’s major metropolises, Guam’s new National Museum is nonetheless artfully appointed, thanks to the keen eye of its careful planner, Msgr. James Benavente.

“For Msgr. James, the National Museum and the Cathedral-Basilica’s expansion wing continues to be a labor of love,” said Geraldine Chance Torres Gutierrez, co-chair of the museum’s fundraising committee. Indeed, Msgr. James has been planning, planting, watering and pruning the vineyard of his vision for the Cathedral-Basilica’s expansion since the late 1990’s – collecting religious artifacts and historical objects while assisting Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron with the broadening of the flagship church’s footprint, and with upgrades and renovations all the while.

After years of sitting mostly empty and hosting an occasional art show or nonprofit event to help raise the capital necessary to start up and sustain proper, full-time museum operations, the National Museum – Hagåtña’s premiere boutique salon – is now finally set for soft opening at a wine-tasting fundraiser this Thursday, March 27, with a collection of sacred artifacts and church memorabilia from throughout the island’s centuries-long marriage to the Roman Catholic faith. Patrons will pay $100 each to attend the unveiling, before it is open for limited hours to the public this weekend.

Today, the Cathedral-Basilica’s expansion wing connects the main church edifice to the Pastoral Center; features a covered indoor-outdoor space for special gatherings such as weddings, baptisms, confirmations and funerals; furnishes two first-floor sanctuaries, including The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Chapel of St. Thérèse of Lisieux; and houses the new National Museum just above the Chapel of St. Thérèse .

In a nod to Guam’s rich, post-contact history, the National Museum overlooks the recently refurbished Plaza de España. And the view from within is accentuated by the pleasing décor of the museum’s interior: the cool, high-gloss marble floors, Spanish arch windows, wainscoting, and recessed and directional lighting.

The museum’s fundraising committee is hosting the unveiling of sacred artifacts during the sponsored wine-tasting on March 27. The event will feature live music, the silent auctioning of a furniture set donated by a local family, and a collection of acquired, donated and loaned exhibit pieces — including the cassock of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, the priest who founded the Catholic faith on Guam, plus hymnals, Vatican memorabilia, old photographs of the pre-war Agaña Cathedral, and a statue of Chief Kepuha, the island’s first Christian convert.

Soft opening hours for the public begin Friday, March 28, from 3pm to 6pm and resume Saturday, March 29, from 10am to 4pm. All schools are invited to tour the National Museum free of charge, by appointment.

Museum hours will be posted at entrances to the Cathedral-Basilica and online at aganacathedral.org.

For more information, please call (671) 472-6201 or send email to info@aganacathedral.org.