Friends of San Lucas partners with and advocates for the San Lucas Mission by supporting its locally-led programs. Through relationships, we believe that hearts and minds can be transformed.
Friends of San Lucas supports development in San Lucas Tolimán and the surrounding communities in Guatemala. We support a locally-based organization: the Mission of San Lucas Tolimán. The Mission is run by more than 100 Guatemalans in seven program areas, including:
- Healthcare The Mission Hospital and Health Promoter Program serves more than 20,000 people each year on a pay-what-you can basis.
- Education The Mission School provides quality, Montessori-style instruction for over 600 students. All students receive scholarships.
- Coffee Café Juan Ana supports small growers and compensates them at above-market rates. This Direct Trade Program supports families and strengthens communities by providing a dependable income for their best coffee.
- Construction The Mission builds block, wood, and hybrid (a combination of block and wood) homes that impact families for generations. Each year the Mission builds 80 or more units of housing and over 400 fuel-efficient stoves.
- Charity This program provides monthly assistance for those identified as having the greatest need, including the elderly, disabled, and widows. The Charity Program also manages our school scholarship program and solicits and maintains the list of families who will receive stoves and/or homes.
- Women’s Center A visitor favorite, this program promotes women’s advancement through classes and workshops that help women learn skills to earn an income. It also provides a safe place to gather and share experiences and dreams.
- Visitor Program This program provides opportunities for people from the U.S. and beyond to travel to San Lucas Tolimán to build relationships, learn, and experience the culture.
Fr. Gregory Schaffer was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, studied at St. Paul Seminary, and was ordained as a Catholic priest for the Diocese of New Ulm. But he found his true calling in Guatemala.
Fr. Greg did not intend to stay more than two years in San Lucas, but he quickly fell in love with the people, the culture, and the challenges of ministry that he encountered. He stayed for more than four decades, and assisted by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, they developed programs to serve the people of San Lucas.
Fr. Greg and the School Sisters, working closely with local leadership, began developing programs in healthcare, education, and agriculture. Responding to the great disparity in land ownership and wealth, Fr. Greg and the School Sisters helped more than 3700 families acquire property for farming. His passion for social justice informed all of the work he did for the almost 50 years that he served the people of San Lucas.
In recognition of his work in San Lucas, Fr. Greg won many awards, including honorary degrees and the Order of the Quetzal, the highest award given by the Guatemalan government. And although Fr. Greg was also given the title of Monsignor, he always referred to himself as a simple parish priest.
Fr. Greg died in Minnesota on May 24, 2012. He was 78. An estimated 30,000 people welcomed his body back to San Lucas.