Supporter Spotlight: Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen Peterson’s brother, Fr. John Goggin, served the people of San Lucas Tolimán for more than 50 years. He played a critical role in the survival and growth of Friends of San Lucas. Fr. John passed away in October of 2023. Kathleen continues to support Friends of San Lucas and is especially grateful for the care provided for her brother by the Mission Healthcare Program. As we recognize the many accomplishments of the Healthcare Program in 2023, we’re sharing this message from Kathleen:

“I am one of Padre Juan’s 3 sisters, all of us RNs: Colleen (deceased 2021), myself, and Mary. I graduated from St. Cloud Hospital School of Nursing (Diploma program) in 1964, operated by The Order of St. Benedict Sisters from St. Ben’s in St. Joseph, MN. I then returned to college in 1996, and achieved a BSN at Bethel University in St. Paul, graduating in 1998.

I worked at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, spent a year as a VISTA Volunteer in an Eskimo Village in remote Alaska, and worked at several hospitals for about 15+ years. I also worked a few years for a local insurance company, nursing homes for another 15+ years, and 14 years as a public health nurse in Scott County, MN.

Our family (Mom Lorine, Dad John, Brothers John and Dick, and we 3 daughters) grew up in the small Irish Catholic farming community of DeGraff, MN. Our mom was a rural school teacher (all 8 grades in one room), then taught at St. Francis Catholic School in Benson for 18 years. She returned to college and achieved her BA in Elementary Education at the University of Minnesota in Morris, MN at age 58. Our dad was a farm laborer and heavy equipment operator for road construction.

Fr. John graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN in 1960, and graduated from St. John’s University School of Theology and Seminary in 1964. While we were near in distance during that time, we rarely saw each other due to school and work commitments. No social media then! He was ordained by the New Ulm Diocese on May 30, 1964 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Ulm by Bishop Alphonse Schladweiler. He was assigned as assistant to Monsignor Ward at St. Anastasia’s in Hutchinson, MN from 1964 – 1967, when Bishop Schladweiler assigned him to assist Fr. Greg Schaffer at the newly formed Mission of San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala.

Our lives have been touched by the Mission’s work and the beloved people of Guatemala ever since. Padre Juan was profoundly impacted by the extreme poverty of the people in the Mission area and determined they deserved a better way of life. He/they always had projects for us to assist with. Over the years we collected needed medications, medical supplies, clothing, tools, equipment, etc. to be sent/taken to the Mission. We assisted in loading trucks with larger equipment, hospital beds, etc. to be driven (at that time) to San Lucas. Our mom and the women of St. Brigid’s in DeGraff organized a group to raise funds for the Mission through their various projects for many years.

Padre often spoke of the Mission efforts to combat the severe malnutrition, and untreated illnesses of the people, caused by extreme poverty and inhumane treatment by landowners.

There was no clinic or hospital at the Mission in the early years. I recall learning of frantic trips to Guatemala City or the nearest medical care with critically ill persons from the area. With the support of volunteers and donors, the Mission has grown over the years into an efficient and effective medical provider, with local Guatemalan leadership.

In the later years, Padre Juan visited Minnesota about every 6 months for specific medical care. He underwent chemotherapy here in Minnesota for his cancer diagnosis, from October of 2022 to March of 2023. He had reasonably good results and wanted to return to his service at the Mission and surrounding communities. His Oncologist agreed. Padre wanted to return “home” to San Lucas. He became seriously ill in mid-August and was hospitalized at the Mission until his death on October 22, 2023. Our brother Dick went to be with him when he was hospitalized and stayed with him through his death.

Dr. Tun and staff, volunteers, beloved friends and communities, provided him amazing care and attention 24/7. They responded to his symptoms with prompt treatments and procedures to keep him comfortable, all while respecting his wishes. They were very attentive to his special food requests, which were limited due to his system tolerance. They provided for his daily living needs, responded to brother Dick’s requests and our nurse requests and suggestions from afar.

They allowed and encouraged hundreds of visitors from surrounding communities to come see and talk to Fr. John and receive a blessing from him: musicians, school children, priests to say Mass with him at his bedside, and innumerable other efforts to keep “his people” in touch with him. Because of their care, devotion, and expertise, he was able to complete his earthly life at “home” where he wanted to be.

The progress the Mission Health Program, and all programs have made through the 56 years of Padre’s service (and Fr. Greg’s before) is unfathomable, not to be accomplished without the dedication, prayers, donations, and support from the rest of God’s people. It has expanded over the years to many remote communities.

Donations are needed to maintain and build the Healthcare Program staff, supplies, and equipment, where those needing it cannot afford the full cost of the care. These donations go directly to those in need.”

To join Kathleen in supporting the Healthcare Program, click here to make your year-end gift now.

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