Panamá. From 21 to 27 August 2022, the Province of Our Lady of the Angels of Central America (CAR) celebrated the centenary of the presence of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Panama (1922-2022).

“With Mary, we celebrate the 100 years of life of the Salesian Charism” is the motto that accompanied the three FMA Communities in Panama, in all the initiatives and events of the year.

The month of celebrations opened on 1 August, with the Hymn of gratitude for the Centenary through which the celebratory activities were placed in the hands of the Virgin Mary, and with the Te Deum prayer, thanking God for His fidelity throughout the century.

The main celebratory moments then concentrated on the Centenary Week, with the presence of Sr. Ena Veralis Bolaños, General Councilor for Administration of the FMA Institute, welcomed on 25 August; the Provincial, Sr. Sandra Yela; and the Provincial Councilors; the three communities of Panamá; the Panamanian Sisters; and a representation of the FMA of Most Holy Savior Province of Central America (CAM).

On 26 August, in Arraijan, at Mary Help of Christians Bilingual School, with the whole Educating Community, the Eucharistic Celebration of thanksgiving for the Centenary of presence in Panama took place, presided over by Fr. Carlos Vilanova, Salesian of Don Bosco, parish priest of Don Bosco Basilica of Panama.

Subsequently, after paying homage to the FMA who died in Panama, Sr. Ena Veralis Bolaños and the Provincial, in the presence of the FMA of the Community of Mary Help of Christians, a representative of the Honor Guard of the School and of the students, unveiled the commemorative plaque of the Centenary of FMA presence.

On 6 March 1922, the first four FMA: Sr. Marianna Castella, Sr. Lupe Espino, Sr. Erminia Ijeo, Sr. Rosa García arrived at the port of Balboa, near the city of Panamá, which for years had desired them in favor of poor youth. “We barely found the essential to install ourselves, but the best will to provide ourselves with what was necessary to be able to start the Domestic School as soon as possible”, narrates the Chronicle, in which it is said that on day 10 “some of the twelve orphans begin to enter. The Domestic School will begin. They will remain the responsibility of the Community with the help of Divine Providence!”.

In the afternoon, a Folkloric Gala was held with all the Communities and Educators who, with dances, songs, dedications, and gifts, wanted to show gratitude for the presence of the Salesian Sisters in this land.

Sr. Ena Bolaños, in greeting to the Educating Community, expressed herself as follows, “Mary is the presence that has allowed us to walk in these 100 years, in joyful and gratifying moments, and also in difficulties. When the Sisters arrived here, they began in a small house, with nothing. They sought help to be able to plant the good seed that we celebrate today, and it was the presence of Mary that sustained them. We do not celebrate a house, a work. We celebrate a presence that commits us to be a presence that generates life.” Referring to the biblical quotation of the Wedding at Cana, she offered the FMA of Panama, in the name of Mother, a chalice engraved with the dates of the Centenary, with a double meaning. It is a sign of the presence of Jesus who nourishes them every day in the Eucharist and also of the presence and intercession of Mary, at the first miracle of her Son.

On 27 August, the festivities with the Salesian Family took place, which began with the Eucharist in Don Bosco Basilica in central Panamá, presided over by Msgr. José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Panamá, who underlined in his homily, “Celebrating a Centenary is celebrating life within a history that is built keeping the past in mind, because the past is the root of the present and the future. The Salesian presence of the sons and daughters of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello is a concrete sign of hope for young people. It is now up to the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and the Salesian Family to decide how to begin this new journey and take up the challenge of making themselves present in other realities that neither time nor history will be able to erase. FMA-One hundred years of Salesian presence in Panama constitute a great opportunity to face history and recognize that we have a heritage for which we are responsible.”

The Archbishop concluded the homily by wishing the FMA and the Salesian Family to continue their journey with the certainty that Mary accompanies their steps in the lands of the isthmus, blessing the works and the Communities.

During the encounter with the Salesian Family, recognition was given to various people who contributed to the growth of the presence of the FMA in the country: benefactors, Past Pupils, Salesians of Don Bosco and Salesian Cooperators. The week of celebrations ended with a great feast for everyone, in the Salesian family spirit.

Foto: Flickr FMA


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