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Fr. Hal Skidmore – Instrument of Peace and Good Shepherd

“Make me an instrument of your peace!” We sang this at the beginning of the Mass of Resurrection for Fr. Harold Skidmore.

As an instrument of peace he was responsible for bringing the Good News to numerous communities in the mountainous areas of Bugaba and Renacimiento in Panama (areas near the border with Costa Rica). He set a firm foundation, literally and figuratively, for the church in San Andres, San Vicente, Volcán, Cerro Punta, Los Planes, Breñon, Santa Clara y Río Sereno. Small wonder he is described as one of the apostles of Panama

He did all this primarily on horseback. So his response to the question of newly arrived confrere is not surprising. Fr. Al Pehrsson asked, “What am I supposed to do?” His reply “See that Jeep! Get in it and drive down that road. At the end of the road, there’s a horse. Get on the horse. There are ten villages in the mountains waiting to hear the word of God.” A perfect description of what he himself did for more than 50 years in Panama.

We approach another celebration of the birth of Christ. I recently learned that Fr. Hal made room in the inn for a young frightened teenager. She was pregnant out of wedlock and shunned by her family and neighbors. He provided housing for her. She got her life together and lived a good life.

Fr. Alciabiades of Panama wrote, “Harold was a man of foresight.  We have papers from 60 years ago which assured a small parcel of land for a future chapel.  Most of us overlooked this patrimony and gave it little importance.  Harry was not like that.  He thought of the future; he educated and guided others.  He was faithful to the Church and to the Gospel which is one and the same.”

When health failed him he returned to spend the rest of his years at the Motherhouse. The late Br. Carmen wrote on the occasion of his birthday, “Having been stationed in Panama for such a long time, Harry mostly will have “arroz y frijoles con pimientos picantes” on the birthday menu.”

Borrowing a thought from Fr. Maloney at another funeral…  he “lived here in the final years of his life as he entered deeper and deeper into that mysterious zone of human consciousness where memory gradually disappears.” Yet his musical instinct came back when at a recent feast day celebration he was waving his hands as if conducting our singing.

Fr. Aalcibaiades, a current leader in our Panamanian ministry, summed up much. “I think that he labored greatly and he was not sufficiently acknowledged.  Others have harvested the fruits which he planted.”

Fr. Al Pehrsson captured him very well in his fitting homily based on Psalm 23. “The Lord Is My Shepherd. I shall not want.” If ever there were a Vincentian Confrere who imitated and took as his model Christ, the Good Shepherd, it was Father Hal Skidmore.”

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