Friday, February 4, 2011

San Lucas Toliman & the San Lucas Mission

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parish history

The San Lucas Mission was originally founded as by the Franciscan order in the late 16th Century, with the building of the Mission Church around 1584.

In 1958, as the Catholic Church in Rome called for greater involvement of clergy and lay people in world missions, the Diocese of New Ulm responded by launching a diocesan partnership with the Diocese of Sololá, Guatemala. Fr. Greg Schaffer, a diocesan priest from New Ulm, began serving as pastor of the San Lucas Mission in 1962.

Perhaps one of the most well-known parishes in Guatemala, its long-term devotion has been the enhancement and enrichment of the whole person – spiritually, intellectually, and physically – by addressing both the immediate effects of poverty and its underlying causes.

Through listening to the expressed-felt need of the people, the philosophy of the San Lucas Parish attempts to respond, as Jesus did, to the needs of the people.

Parish programs began addressing the needs for housing, healthcare and nutrition, education, and land - all attending to the integral human development of the community.

Beginning 45 years ago, San Lucas was a small village of cornstalk homes with thatched roofs, lacking both electricity and plumbing. There were neither health care facilities nor schools and women and children suffered severely from the lack of healthcare, with many women dying in childbirth and children suffering as a result of malnutrition.

Education, inaccessible to the majority of the Maya population, perpetuated discrimination against the Maya, who were consequently unable to find employment off of the coffee plantations. Land ownership, with which the people could live and raise their own crops, constituted the gravest of injustices, having resulted in the systemization of land deprivation with huge disparities in rural land ownership.

Through the initiatives begun by the Parish, San Lucas is now a village of cement block and stone homes, built by local stone masons and carpenters trained in parish programs. Free healthcare and nutrition programs, including dental facilities and an eye clinic, are also available to the people.

Through education, the people of San Lucas have taken advantage of the opportunity to advance. Very proudly, many of today’s Maya teachers, doctors, engineers and lawyers of San Lucas have been educated in the parish’s programs. The literacy rate, around 2.5% when the Parish school began, is now more than 85%. For youth interested in pursuing post-secondary schooling, the parish provides annual scholarships and for others there is an apprenticeship program, through which students gain training in agriculture, stone masonry, carpentry, electricity, and plumbing.

With respect to land ownership, perhaps the most significant of the parish’s programs, the San Lucas Parish has undertaken the restoration of land and livelihood to the landless Maya majority - over the last 35 years more than 4000 families have received 3 acre plots of land.

In listening to the expressed felt need of the people, the San Lucas Parish has attempted to address situations of injustice, promoting as its base the structural and systemic change that is necessary in addressing the process of poverty and its underlying causes.

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Parish Philosophy
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Contact us:

San Lucas Tolimán:

La Parroquia
San Lucas Tolimán
Sololá 07013
Phone: +(502) 7722 - 0112

New Ulm, MN:

Diocese of New Ulm
San Lucas Mission / Kathy Huebert
1400 Sixth Street North
New Ulm, MN 56073-2099
Phone: (507) 359 - 2966

San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala | E-mail | Web Design by Group M7 | Photography by Alexander Zoltai

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Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
View of Lake Atitlan and volcano from my apartment balcony in Panajachel. Taken by Catherine Todd June 2008.