[This article was first published in the September 24th, 2017 edition of Panorama Católico].
The Congregation of the Mission is celebrating the centennial of its presence and pastoral ministry in the Republic of Panama.[Actually, missioners from the eastern Province arrived in Panama in 1914] In 1917 the Vincentians from the Eastern Province of the United States arrived in Bocas del Toro (German Vincentians in Costa Rica had ministered on the Isla Colon during the last three decades of the nineteenth century and we reference the ministry of Father Joseph Volk [1841-1919]).
Catholicism in Bocas del Toro owes its beginnings and its organization to the members of the Congregation of the Mission who took responsibility for this area of the country at the time when the fruit company and other foreign business companies put Bocas del Toro on the map. Their pastoral ministry in Bocas (1917-1964) laid the foundation for what would become known as the Prelatura of Bocas del Toro.
On the occasion of the centennial celebration, members of the Vincentian Family visited us: Father Teodoro Justavino, CM (Regional Superior), Father Geovany Morales, CM (Puerto Armuelles) and Deacon Edwin Vásquez (administrator of Saint Vincent’s School, Santiago, Veraguas). In addition, lay members of the Vincentian Family from Concepción (Bugaba) and Puerto Armuelles (Barú) participated in this celebration.
This visit took place on September 15-17, 2017. Our visitors rejoiced as they walked through the corridors of the parish school of St. Joseph where they were able to experience the kindness of the women religious and the Catholic faithful who had organized a cultural program. After lunch, they traveled to the Isla Colon, a tourist center, where they were able to walk in the footprints of their predecessors as they visited the parish residence and admired the beauty of nature and savored the Caribbean food.
The visit of the Vincentian Family concluded on Sunday, September 17th, with the celebration of the Eucharist in the newly established parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The care that was given to every detail was the most appropriate manner in which the pilgrim church in Bocas del Toro was able to express its gratitude to God for the zealous ministry of the members of the Congregation of the Mission.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM Eastern Province, USA
Ed. Among the early Vincentians in Panama, Father Steve Strouse, CM, established the first credit union for local workers at Bocas del Toro.