Astor in PanamaThe recent answer was in Panama . See the SmileBox creation for his impressions. You may recognize some names and faces.

Adventures in Panama 2014

For the last three years I have been taking the opportunity given me by the Province to go and visit our mission in Panama. I have been there four times now; the first was for a mere three days for a National Vincentian Family Gathering. It was an initiation to what was to come in my further visits and experiences among the confreres, their different works and the beautiful people of Panama.

Every February we try to cram in more activities with the youth and young adults during their summer vacation months. So the confreres organize my visit for the month, I get to
go from one end to the other and live in the different and diverse communities. Before I ever came to Panama, my vision or understanding of the people was pretty limited, only when I got there were my eyes opened, along with my mind and heart.
I got to go to Puerto Armuelles, Soloy, Concepcion, Volcan, Balboa and Colon. I also had the opportunity to see and work with three of our seminarians, Arturo Alonso Reynolds, Olmedo Guerra and Andres Felipe Cerezo, two who are waiting to enter the Internal Seminary and one doing a pastoral year among our communities.

I first met with a team in Saint Mary’s in Balboa. Fr John Carney organized this meeting where we could talk about strategies to increase the collaboration among the Vincentian Family and efforts made for Vocation Promotions. We had Daughters of Charity, members of Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Centenary Commission and Parish Members. Since the celebration of the 100 years of the Vincentian Mission in Panama started in January, it has brought about many moments to share, evaluate and plan future events.

I left the next day to Puerto Armuelles where I met with the seminarians and the community. We had our usual visits and had two events there. One was an animation night and one was a regional youth meeting in El Progreso. The theme was the Call, first as a general one as a people of God and then the personal one. Members of the Vincentian community, Daughters of Charity, Seminarians, VMY group were there and helped the day go smoothly.

In Soloy with Father’s Joe Fitzgerald and Teo Justavino we had two events: a meeting with the local VMY group and the one with youth from the Gnöbe Indian community. Daughters and Mercy Sisters also participated.

In Concepcion the vision shifted, they were starting the pre-seminary stage again and wanted to support it as best as we could. I accompanied the young man entering, Orlando Chavarria, to his home community in Volcan. There we saw what a vibrant community it was and how much support he received. Fr. Edison Famania, Ms. Argelys Vega (VMY International) and few others gathered. On the February 24 we had a mass to inaugurate this year´s seminary in Concepcion and later a small dinner.

We left the next day to Colon where we saw our newly ordained and our seminarian from the states, who’s doing a pastoral experience, Fr. Norberto Abrego and Luis Romero. We  saw the museum that Fr. Pio Jimenez put together to honor all the confreres and history of the mission in Panama. The trip ended all too quickly, but as always showed me how important it is to collaborate, reach out and share our Vincentian Spirit.