San Lucas Mission

VISION began with an encounter with the San Lucas Mission in Guatemala more than 30 years ago. Although our VISION trips now include many destinations, they are all informed by this early encounter based on mutual respect and a desire for understanding.‌

Over the years, more than 400 St. Thomas students have visited this community, witnessing first-hand the fruits of the work of Fr. Greg Schaffer and the community at San Lucas. ‌

For students considering long-term service commitments post-graduation, we are pleased to provide information about San Lucas' long-term volunteer opportunities. Long-term volunteers have a unique opportunity to engage with the community more deeply and to learn through experience while sharing their gifts.

The San Lucas Philosophy

Beginning foremost with recognition and appreciation for the rich Maya culture and the heartfelt understanding that God’s love is for all, efforts at the San Lucas Mission attempt to respond, as Jesus did, to the expressed felt need of the people, using the Preferential Option for the Poor as its foundation, and drawing on Christian Social Teaching to guide efforts in the integral human development of our people and community.

Preferential Option for the Poor

It was in 1968 when the Catholic Bishops of Latin America gathered in the city of Medellin, Colombia to reflect on and dialogue about how the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) could be best implemented in the countries they served.

A key phrase arose from that reflection and dialogue that was to make a powerful impact on how the church would servethroughout Latin America. The phrase: A Preferential Option for the Poor.

Speaking from Medellin, and since, the Preferential Option for the Poor promotes that the moral test of a society is how it responds to its most marginalized.

As the poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation, we are thus called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they respond to the poor.

Understanding that the poor and marginalized are signs of illness in a society, the option for the poor promotes that a healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society.

Christian Social Teaching

In addition to the Preferential Option for the Poor, the work at San Lucas Mission is guided by the following principles of Christian Social Teaching:

Belief in the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching. Human life is sacred, and the dignity of the human person is the starting point for a moral vision for society. This principle is grounded in the idea that the person is made in the image of God. The person is the clearest reflection of God among us.

Human dignity can only be realized and protected in the context of relationships with the wider society. How we organize our society -- in economics and politics, in law and policy -- directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community. The obligation to "love our neighbor" has an individual dimension, but it also requires a broader social commitment. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the good of the whole society, to the common good.

We must walk with the people. Authentic development must be integral human development. It must respect and promote personal, social, economic, and political rights, including the rights of nations and of peoples. It must avoid the extremists of underdevelopment on the one hand, and "super-development" on the other. Accumulating material goods and technical resources will be unsatisfactory and debasing if there is no respect for the moral, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of the person.

The principle of subsidiarity holds that in our efforts to work with another culture, we must begin from where the people are, at all times safeguarding their efforts to address the situation of poverty in which they live. When the needs in question cannot adequately be met, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that our efforts, in solidarity with theirs, work to find solutions.