Responding to Pope John XXIII’s call for missionaries in Central and South America, the Dominican Sisters of Houston began ministering to the poor in Guatemala in 1966. Four sisters traveled to the hills of Zacapa, Guatemala to minister in a parochial school and to teach catechism in the public schools. After four years, the indigenous people assumed responsibility for the school and the catechetical instruction, and our sisters left to begin working with the poor in Guatemala City.
In 1984, we began our sponsorship of San Vicente de Paul Bethania School in Guatemala City, and since then, our Sr. Miriam Oliveros, OP has served as head of school. San Vicente serves about 550 children from pre-kindergarten three through the sixth grade and is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Guatemala City. The Bethania neighborhood is plagued with drugs and violence, but against tremendous odds, the children at our school continue to succeed.
Our mission is to give these high-risk students a good Catholic education and to ensure they graduate. To ensure our mission, the teachers and the administration frequently meet with and counsel school families; provide the poorest families with food, clothing, and medical care; and provide breakfast to any child in need. The school teaches the children that education is their chance to better their lives and to end the cycle of poverty into which they were born. The children also learn the values of love, peace, and justice to prepare them for future leadership.
San Vicente’s success is measurable. Over ninety-eight percent of our students graduate the sixth grade as compared to the thirty percent who graduate from public schools in the neighborhood. Our graduates attend high school where they learn a skill or earn a certification, and twenty-five percent attend university. Many of our graduates come back to serve the community and the school as teachers, counselors, and doctors.
You need only to walk down the halls of San Vicente to know it is a warm and loving place. School families are so very grateful for the opportunity to send their children to this school where no one goes hungry and where every child is loved and encouraged to learn.
Most all families cannot pay the cost of educating their children at the school, but they pay what they can. The Dominican Sisters raise money through individual donations, grants, major gifts, and mission appeals in churches in the Galveston – Houston, Austin, and Beaumont dioceses. We are grateful for the generosity of others that helps ensure San Vicente will continue to educate these precious children spiritually and academically so they may better their lives and those of their family.
For more information about our Guatemala mission, contact Laura Henderson at 713-440-3707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.