In 2014 the Eastern Province marked a century of ministry in the Republic of Panama. It was a time to reflect on the many Vincentians who served in this mission, give thanks for the faith of the Panamanian people, and look to a future full of hope following Christ in St. Vincent´s way.
The completion of construction of the Panama Canal in 1914 marked the start of the presence of Eastern Province Vincentians in
Panama. With the establishment of English-speaking people in an area known as the “Canal Zone,” Vincentians accepted pastoral care of communities
along the Panama Canal, opening a mission house in Balboa in 1914. The following year the Vincentians accepted pastoral care of a parish in Colon, a city on the Atlantic side of the Canal.
In 1917, Vincentians moved into rural areas of Panama, (called “the interior”) with ministry in the Bocas del Toro Province, bordering Costa Rica on the Atlantic Ocean, serving there until 1964. The Panama Mission expanded in the Province of Chiriqui, with parishes in the cities of Puerto Armuelles and Concepcion, bordering Costa Rica on the Pacific Ocean. This increased a need for Vincentians fluent in Spanish. Efforts also began to attract vocations among native Panamanians.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Mission shifted focus in several new ways: developing Christian Base Communities, promoting lay formation and social justice, and a new ministry to Indigenous peoples in the Ngäbe Reservation i
n the Province of Darien. When the Panama Canal returned to Panama at the end of the 20th century, it was noteworthy the majority of Vincentians announcing the “Good News to the Poor” in Panama were themselves native Panamanians.
The missionary presence in Panama of Eastern Province Vincentian continues in vibrant service in urban and rural parishes.
Besides sacramental ministry, there are programs for lay formation, ministry to the incarcerated and indigenous people, poverty eradication, and social justice work. Twenty Panamanians and North Americans serve Panama in five principle geographic areas:
Balboa (Panama City) – St. Mary´s Parish
- Colon, Province of Colon – St. Joseph / Miraculous Medal Parishes
- Puerto Armuelles, Province of Chiriquí – St. Anthony Parish
- Concepcion, Province of Chiriquí – Immaculate Conception / Our Lady of Charity Parishes
- Soloy, Comarca Ngäbe-Bugle – St. Vincent de Paul Parish