‘Laboring with the Poor: Providence College Goes to Guatemala’

By Fr. Peter Martyr Yungwirth, O.P., College Chaplain, Providence College

Peter Martyr Yungwirth, of St. Joseph Province, with Providence College students and a Guatemalan friend.

Each year after the end of the spring semester, Providence College Campus Ministry sponsors two international service trips to Jamaica and Guatemala. The group that travels to Jamaica works with Mustard Seed Communities and mainly serves those who suffer from mental and physical handicaps. The group that travels to Guatemala works with Mision San Lucas and serves in a number of ways in the local community, especially through aiding the local workers with manual labor. 

This past summer, I was able to accompany the group to Guatemala, and it was a beautiful experience. Many of our students experienced a foreign culture for the first time. We were able to spend time speaking and getting to know the people of the area while we served alongside of them. We heard their stories and how the different parts of the mission have helped them and their families. While excavating for a foundation of a house, helping to build the beginnings of a foundation of another house, or moving dirt, rocks, and boulders, we were able to join them in their experiences and begin to see how God’s providence has played out in their lives especially through the assistance of the mission.

During this time we were also able to learn more about the history of the area and the role the Church has played in the lives of the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. Between 1968 and 1981, Bl. Stanley Rother, a native of Oklahoma, served in Santiago on Lake Atitlan. He was loved by the people but executed by the government. His legacy is still felt, and his memory is venerated in the various towns on the lake. In San Lucas Tolimán , the same is true, and Bl. Stanley’s preaching and life, as well as the mission work begun there by Fr. Gregory Schaffer in 1963, has continued to impact the people of the whole region.

While there is still a lot of work to be done to support the local population, the work of Mision San Lucas has made a noticeable impact on the community. Their work in education, medicine, artisan training, construction, and most importantly the spiritual support have all made a difference for so many.

To read more about the trip, please see article “Learning to Plant Seeds in Guatemala”