Being a missionary is an answer to a call. A small group of young friars, in preparation for World Youth Day, enthusiastically accepted an invitation to take part in a missionary experience of living among the people on the farthest outskirts of the Diocese of Colón in Panama.
Some of the participating Conventual Franciscan friars came from Colombia. They were Friars Fabián Alberto MARTÍNEZ ARAQUE, Julián Oscar ARIAS FERÁNDEZ, and Daniel Andrés BOHÓRQUEZ GALVIS. Another participant came from Brazil, Friar Flávio Martins VENÂNCIO. The group was led by Friar Jarosław WYSOCZAŃSKI, the Secretary General for Mission Animation (SGAM).
The particular objectives of this experience were to share the Franciscan charism by “living among, and with, the people”, to help the young friars rediscover the experience of faith and missionary spirit, to have a living experience of the Gospel, to foster the openness of young friars toward serving the least, and to take the invitation from the Bishop of Colón to heart.
The missionary framework they followed was to create a fraternity whose members were ready to share their faith and be witnesses of hope among the people. These people only had one opportunity a year to participate in the Eucharist.
The friars left the city of Panama with two great desires in their hearts: to share the faith with the Panamanian people, moving beyond cultural, linguistic or social differences, and to learn more about the people’s lives.
The first big step to being credible and authentic missionaries is to create fraternity. The young friars arrived in Panama on January 17, 2019, and headed for Colón, where they were met by Father Carlos RODRIGUEZ, the Assistant Pastor of the large San Lorenzo parish. Later, they crossed the Panama Canal and arrived in Rio Indio.
The Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate accommodated the friars on their school property. The following day, the friars reached El Jobo, a village along the Rio Grande River. There, they celebrated Mass and had a nice time talking about their lives and vocations. Afterwards, they continued their journey to visit the communities of Los Bajitos and Jobo Centro.
Arriving on foot and on horseback, they received a taste of the wonderful hospitality of the peasants, and speaking with the village leaders (Delegados), they learned something about missionary work which would later become very useful.
The friars continued on to offer catechesis and service in the various villages near Los Bajitos and Jobo Centro, places of extreme poverty. They were always amazed by the generosity of the people. All during this missionary experience, the friars shared the Word and the Eucharist with the people. They also visited the sick and the most distant families living on the outskirts.
Every evening, there was a party with young people, children and adults, who came from various places near and far. The friars prayed for peace with them, took part in simple meals, and played games. Something that friars experience many times in missionary work is that they end up receiving more than they give, which fills them with the joy of faith. At the end of the experience in Los Bajitos and Jobo Centro, the friars made their farewells, full of emotion and gratitude, because they had discovered fraternal friends.
Friar Jarosław WYSOCZAŃSKI, SGAM Secretary General