Three years ago, as Mission Secretary, I was invited by the bishop of the Prelature of Bocas deI Toro, Panama, CAM Region, to have a mission and a pastoral experience in that place.
The purpose of this mission was to know the place, the people, particularly the indigenous community, of Ngobe Bugle. The bishop wanted to understand what type of pastoral care was needed in order to formulate pastoral strategies that could be implemented in the indigenous community. The first thing I became aware of, after being there for some time, was that the people, their culture, their situation, the environment there and the pastoral service being offered to them was quite different from the city or the place in Panama where I had lived for 16 years. Therefore, I realized that since that place, Bocas del Toro, was so new and different, having a mission there was an urgent matter for the SVD. There was a need for permanent pastors, parochial organization and formation of lay partners for a possible pastoral work. There was also a need to connect and to be closer to the indigenous people.
Therefore, after a year and a half of mission experience and pastoral ministry from the mission animation perspective, and supported by the positive evaluation of this experience, the SVD finally signed a contract with the local Bishop, on January 29, 2012, to officially accept the San Jose parish of Chiriqui Grande, Prelature Bocas del Toro, Panama.
The pastoral challenge of this place is to accompany the indigenous people and to accompany them in the challenging situations of their lives. The social and economic aspects of their daily lives greatly affect religious life and the way pastoral care is done in these places. The political system does not favor the indigenous communities and, in consequence, this also causes problems to our pastoral work. The pastoral challenge is to seek the appropriate strategies to implement the first and new evangelization in a population economically impoverished by the oppressive and unjust social structures of the country.
Mikhael Malikwas SVD, Mission Secretary