Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Fatima Mission Group seeks help for damaged school in Guatemala

by Judy Schultz and Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the Nov. 11, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Members of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane, have provided funding for scholarships and other needs for young Mayan women being educated at a Catholic boarding school near Panajachel, Guatemala. (IR file photo by Deacon Eric Meisfjord)

Parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Spokane have a long history of responding to the educational needs of the poor in Guatemala. Moreover, their responses have taken various forms, ranging from the construction of school buildings and payment of teacher’s salaries to providing buses, books, and even marimbas.

In 1968, the parish sent a school bus to the Spokane Mission area. It was used to transport 100 children to a school in Nahualá. They also provided students with scholarships at boarding schools, giving native children their first-ever opportunity for higher education. Their graduates include the first native doctor, three priests, accountants, and many teachers.

During the 1990s Our Lady of Fatima parishioners helped with construction of a school in the extremely remote village of Tzamjuyub. They continued to support teachers’ salaries there until the Guatemalan government was able to take over.

The parishioners donated over $10,000 following Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

For the past several years, Our Lady of Fatima has been providing scholarships for 20 young Mayan girls at the Instituto Indigena Nuestra del Socorro in the Panajachel area. The young women are selected to attend the Catholic boarding school mostly through connections with their local parish priests.

The institute offers poor but promising indigenous young women a unique opportunity for a first-rate education that prepares them for leadership in their communities after graduation. It has a staff of 40 and an enrollment of 160 students. (A corresponding Catholic indigenous institute for boys exists in Guatemala City.)

The unusually heavy rain storms that pounded Guatemala nearly all summer long have also weakened the soil on the mountainside where the girls’ school stands. A wall that has previously held back a bank of soil is giving way. This slope supports the security wall protecting the young girls and teachers from outside threats. In an area where kidnapping is becoming big business this is very disheartening!

Although there is urgency in making the repair to the bank and wall, the estimated cost of $25,000 is beyond what parish mission committee can provide at this time. Readers who can help with this project are invited to contact Maryann Farnell at (509) 448-1355 or send their contributions to: Fatima Parish Guatemala Mission Project, c/o Chuck Milani, Treasurer, 2204 E. 34th Ave., Spokane, WA 99203.

(Schultz is a member of the Guatemala Commission of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Monks is a member of the diocese’s Guatemala Commission.)

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