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Cathedral of St Luke Panama, Centennial

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Cathedral of St Luke Panama, Centennial


Posted 05/04/2024

The Anglican-Episcopal Cathedral of St Luke in Ancon Panama City celebrated its Centennial this past March 23rd.  The oldest Anglican-Episcopal cathedral in Central America and Panama, St Luke’s history is not only unique within the Anglican-Episcopal community but is also significantly tied to the history of Panama itself.  Located in Ancon, the Cathedral of St. Luke is a principal landmark in the City of Panama, and the Episcopal Diocese of Panama which is a member of the Anglican Church in the Central American Region (IARCA), and the Worldwide Anglican Communion.  Near the foot of Ancon Hill, the majestic Cathedral can be seen from nearby Panama City streets.  Its tower, rising high above the surrounding lush tropical vegetation, has elements inspired by the early 20th century Spanish Colonial Revival architecture of Southern California, while the Corinthian portico with its stately columns is reminiscent of colonnades in Rome and London.  As evening approaches and darkness takes over, the brilliant colors of the unique stained-glass window dedicated to those who died in the building of the Panama Canal, set behind the altar of the adjacent All Soul’s Chapel, can be seen from afar.  St. Luke’s lovely exterior is but an invitation to the beautiful sanctuary that awaits inside, an oasis of peace and tranquility.  A climb to the top of the tower, not for the faint of heart, provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of Panama City and surrounding areas.ancon-pictures.jpgThe Cathedral’s history began in the early 1900’s with a private chapel in the home of Colonel William Crawford Gorgas, a devoted Episcopalian, and US Army officer sent to Panama in 1904 as chief sanitation officer.  Colonel Gorgas is best known for his vital work in bringing mosquito borne illnesses such as yellow fever and malaria under control during the building of the Panama Canal. In 1908, a small wooden chapel was built which and was named the Chapel of St. Luke the Beloved Physician.    Some years later, under the leadership of the first Bishop of the Panama Canal Zone, the Right Reverend James Craik Morris, a new structure was commissioned to be designed by an architect from New York, Hobart Upjohn, the grandson of Richard Upjohn who is famous for his Gothic Revival churches, and Meade Bolton of Panama.    The cornerstone of the Cathedral was laid in April of 1922 and the building was completed just a year and a half later.  The Cathedral of St. Luke was consecrated on the third Sunday in Lent, March 23, 1924, and its doors have been open ever since.ancon-through-the-years.jpgToday, St. Luke’s celebrates two services every Sunday, with one in Spanish and one in English.  A healing service is celebrated at noon every Wednesday in All Souls Chapel.  The Cathedral has outreach ministries to care for and feed the poor and disenfranchised, co-sponsors the Girls Home (formerly the Bella Vista Children’s Home) with other Anglican-Episcopal churches in Panama, shares its space for cultural activities, as well as other varied activities dedicated to the well-being of the community.  St. Luke’s mission and ministry draws on its rich Anglican-Episcopal heritage. The congregation's focus is to bring English and Spanish speaking communities into closer relationship with God and each other; spreading the Gospel, the Sacraments and God’s love and fellowship to people of all races, nationalities, personal preferences, and age groups, especially the alienated and disadvantaged in Panama City and those without a Church family; maintaining worship in a dynamic, welcoming and safe environment; and demonstrating the Spirit of Christ through our ministry and outreach.

The Centennial Celebration was officiated by the Most Reverend Julio E. Murray, Th., Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Panama, with the assistance of the Reverend Adrian Cardenas Torres, Clergy-in-Charge of the Cathedral of St Luke, as well as clergy from throughout the Diocese.  St Luke’s was beautifully decorated for the occasion which included the Lux Vitae Chorus and typical dancers from the St Christopher’s Episcopal Institute, in addition to lovely instrumental accompaniment by organist Mario Algandona and harpist Jan Bishop.   A beautiful exhibition of the Cathedral’s history was part of the celebration, as was a lovely reception in the garden following the worship service. As it begins its second century of service in Panama, the Cathedral of St Luke’s invites all to visit throughout the week and to worship on Wednesday and/or Sunday.   


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