Friends of San Lucas supports development in San Lucas Tolimán and the surrounding communities in Guatemala. We work through 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 Our hospital and health promoter program served more than 24,000 people on a pay-what-you can basis last year.
- Education Our primary school provides quality, Montessori-style instruction for over 600 students. Almost 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 We build block, wood, and hybrid (a combination of block and wood) homes with fuel-efficient stoves and concrete floors. These homes impact families for generations. In 2019 we will build over 75 units of housing.
- 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. It also provides a safe place to gather and share experiences and dreams.
- Visitors In 2019, more than 1,200 people visited to walk alongside the people of San Lucas. Groups come to San Lucas from all over the United States and range from small family groups to parishes, schools and medical groups.
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.
Fr. Greg for his efforts 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, Fr. Greg always referred to himself as a simple parish priest.
Fr. Greg died on May 24, 2012. He was 78. An estimated 30,000 people welcomed his body back to San Lucas.