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Mission Minutes 2020: Restoring a Church in Panama

Mission Minutes 2020: Restoring a Church in Panama
Nina Nicholson

A community in Panama had lost their church building, and a family in New Jersey had lost their son and brother. Christ Church, Newton was in relationship with both, and found a way to shepherd their gifts to bring about healing for both. Here’s their story. (Time: 4:02.)

Video Transcript

The Rev. Canon Robert Griner, Rector: For a number of years Christ Church in Newton has had a relationship with Bishop Julio and the Diocese of Panama and about a year and a half ago I presented to Julio the question, "Do you have a project that really needs work on in the Diocese of Panama?" And he said, "Yes I've got the project for you." There was a church in Aguacate and the church had really fallen on hard times. The church was chained up, the ceiling had collapsed and they ceased having any kind of services at all. I had known from our parish a family that had lost a son to addictive illness and I came up with the idea and presented it to Julio of raising the money as a memorial for Steven Cagno, this young man.

Molly Cagno, Sister of Steven Cagno: So I met Father Robert probably two and a half, three years ago, three and a half years ago and I met him on a retreat and I had just lost my brother Steven. We were very close we were Irish twins and you know one night I woke up and he didn't, and there was a lot of pain there, you know. That was the one person I didn't want to lose and I didn't know what to do with this pain, you know. I didn't have any idea of how I was supposed to transform or transmit this pain, you know. Father Robert called me and he said, "I had this crazy idea, like, tell me if you think this is crazy." I said okay. He said, "How would you like to build a church in Panama in memory for your brother?" And it was, you know, I felt like I had like an answer for this pain.

Griner: The major tasks that we were commissioned with was to raise the money for the materials because that's the biggest obstacle that they have in the Diocese of Panama. They do however encourage and with good humor invite us to participate in the construction process itself. We were involved in the preparation of the walls, the painting, and the sifting of sand and all kinds of projects around the construction of roof and walls for the restored, as they call the temple, or "templo." It really became this kind of community center. This is a rural farming area in Panama and there really was no common place for the community to meet for anything, and so the restored church, the now open church has become the church not just for Episcopalians in the area but for the whole town.

Cagno: You know my brother was full of life and laughter and happiness and joy and when we went down there to see the people in the community show that. When Julio did the dedication service and we were all gathered around and we all had our t-shirts on and I just I felt him so much, I have not ever felt that close to him before. But it was just such a surreal moment and every time I think about it I get this feeling in my soul and in my heart that, you know, he was able to help all these people and his spirit is down there. I would like to go back with my family, my brother and my mom, and show them an ending, you know, help them to experience the same thing in a different light.