San Lucas was once 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 from malnutrition.

A lack of access to education perpetuated discrimination against the Maya, who were consequently unable to find employment other than on the coffee plantations. The inaccessibility of land ownership for the Kaqchikel people has resulted in one of the gravest injustices: an inability to feed one’s own family.

But 1963 proved a historic year for the people of San Lucas. Father Greg Schaffer arrived as a parish priest, and soon his work evolved to address these historic injustices. Shaped by Catholic Social Teaching and the tenets of Liberation Theology, Father Greg launched social programs designed to build on the strengths of the people of San Lucas in an effort to create a more just community.

Father Greg died in 2012 and is buried in a place of special importance in the San Lucas cemetery. Today, the Friends of San Lucas continues Father Greg’s legacy. In 2019, the San Lucas Mission touched more than 25,000 lives, between affordable healthcare services, quality education for children, and dignified housing for families. None of this would have been possible without the passion and commitment of Father Greg Schaffer.

This week marks 86 years since Father Greg’s birth in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1934. In San Lucas, his birth will be commemorated with a mass, followed by a procession to the cemetery and speeches from students at his graveside. Here in the US, we invite you to honor Father Greg’s legacy with a gift of $86 for his 86th birthday. Thank you for helping Father Greg’s dream touch the lives of even more Guatemalans in 2020.

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