Ellen Mathiowetz first visited the San Lucas Mission as a high school student. Today, she’s the Director of the Visitor Program and Special Events for the Friends of San Lucas. Naturally, she feels a special connection to the Visitor Program. Read on to learn why Ellen cares about the Visitor Program.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ellen Mathiowetz, and I am the Director of the Visitor Program and Special Events for the Friends of San Lucas. I am originally from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota and spent the early part of my career in the Twin Cities before moving to New York City in 2021. I love traveling, keeping up with friends and family, cheering for the Minnesota Twins and winning the lottery for as many Broadway shows as possible!
What led you to support the Mission? How did you get involved?
I can’t really remember a time that I didn’t know about the San Lucas Mission. My family has been involved and supporting the work of the Mission since the 1980s as my grandparents became connected with Fr. Greg and made trips to San Lucas to learn more about the work being done.
Growing up in Sleepy Eye, Fr. Greg would come to our church occasionally to speak about the San Lucas Mission. I remember doing many fundraisers during my elementary school days to help support the work being done in San Lucas. As was customary in my family, once I got to high school I visited the Mission for the first time.
During that visit, my eyes were opened to a world much bigger than Southern Minnesota. The things I remember most were working alongside the local Guatemalans pouring the concrete for the roof of the Women’s Center and playing soccer with the others in my group and some of the Mission employees. The people I met and the experiences offered to me were foundational in developing my interest in community service, traveling the world and learning more about other cultures.
Fast forward 12 years, and the Director of the Visitor Program position opened up. It was a case of being at the right place in life at the right time, so I put my application in and hoped FOSL would let me work remotely from NYC. Thankfully, the interview went well and I began working for the organization in Fall 2022.
Why do you care about the Visitors Program?
I have learned a ton in my first year working with the Visitors Program and have had first-hand teachers in my coworkers in San Lucas to help me understand more about the culture, history, hardships, and beauty of life in Guatemala. I think that’s what I care about most. I hope my role can help, in big and small ways, to expand that knowledge to more visitors each year through our service-learning opportunities.
Can you share a specific story of the program’s impact that you know of?
There are so many impactful stories, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. One awesome element of my job is that I get to work closely with our long-term volunteers and coordinators as they facilitate each visit. I was in Guatemala last March during one of the Spring Break weeks, and it was really cool to see how the team interacted with each unique visitor and group–we had high schoolers, college students, a Physician’s Assistant and PA students, former LTVs and an adult group all there at the same time. Because each group was doing something different throughout the day, meal times were a really special opportunity for everyone to share about what impacted them and what they learned about Guatemala through that day’s particular programming. By the end of the week, even the high school boys were opening up and sitting with other visitors at dinner, sharing their stories and learning more about what the other groups were doing that week! It’s just really fun for me to see the broad, yet specific impact that visits to the Mission have upon the lives of so many people.
What difference are people making when they give to the Visitors Program?
Supporting the FOSL visitors program truly does help transform lives. All of the work being done by the Mission and Friends of San Lucas has a tremendous impact on the community of San Lucas, but I think that the impact of the Visitors Program extends both ways. The relationships and connections formed through the learning-service opportunities are apparent both for visitors and San Luqueños, something that I think is really unique and important to this program.
How has this program touched your life personally?
I’m continually blown away by the passion and openness of our visitors, hospitality of the Visitor Program team, the amazing stories shared by community members who give the charlas (talks) to groups, and eagerness of the Mission staff who facilitate activities for the groups. Each person I have interacted with through my role in the Visitors Program has taught me something about myself and how I interact with the world. I am continually grateful for all of the people I’ve met through the work being done by this program!
To join Ellen in supporting the Visitor Program, click here to make your year-end gift now.