Special Collections and Archives


Records, including photographs and recordings, of a national Catholic pastoral program for Maya Indians in the United States.

Gift of Sister Nancy J. Wellmeier, S.N.D.deN., 2006 and 2009. Processed by Mark G. Thiel, CA (Certified Archivist), 2009.

Historical Note

Since 1990, the Maya communities in the United States (e.g. Q'anjob'al, K'iche') have invited the pastors of their native parishes in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico, to visit and minister to them with the sacraments in their native languages. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) then became aware of an estimated 150,000 Catholics out of 200,000 Maya Indians in the United States and their efforts to maintain their Catholic faith and practice it according to their culture. By 2002, the estimated number of Maya had grown to 500,000 with the largest concentration in South Florida. However, the arch/dioceses in these 10 states contain several parishes with notable concentrations -- Arizona (Phoenix), California (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego), Colorado (Pueblo), Florida (Palm Beach and Venice), Georgia (Atlanta), Nebraska (Grand Island, Lincoln, and Omaha), North Carolina (Raleigh), Ohio (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Youngstown), South Carolina (Charleston), and Tennessee (Nashville).

At the request of Maya Catholics from the Diocese of Huehuetenango (Huehuetenango, Guatemala), the USCCB Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees named Sister Nancy Wellmeier, S.N.D.deN., to coordinate this pastoral effort in 1994. With funding from the USCCB, the Catholic Church Extension Society, and other sources, it grew to involve over 150 priests, religious, and catechists who organized an advisory board, national gatherings, and a newsletter to facilitate discussions and action for addressing community needs in education, culture, spirituality, health and safety, and human and legal rights. Its activities include on-going training for catechists, lay leaders, youth ministers and support for pastoral community visitations by Maya-speaking clergy.

Padre David López Silvestre (Diocese of Huehuetenango) administered the ministry in 2003-2004. During the following year, these duties transferred to the USCCB Migration and Refugee Services Office (Washington, D.C.). Padre López returned to his diocese while still visiting intermittently as spiritual leader (chaplain).

National meetings:

Dates Events
1999 I Encuentro Nacional: Los Angeles, California, St. Raphael's Church, March 5-7. Representatives from Greenville, South Carolina; Canton, Georgia; Lake Worth, Florida; Mesa, Arizona; and San Diego and Los Angeles, California organized a national board of directors.
2001 II Encuentro Nacional: Phoenix, Arizona, July 27-29.
2004 III Encuentro Nacional: Kennesaw, Georgia, Kennesaw State University, May 1-2.
2005 IV Encuentro Nacional: Kennesaw, Georgia, Kennesaw State University, August 27-28.
2006 V Encuentro Nacional: Los Angeles, California, February 12-13, and Kennesaw, Georgia, Kennesaw State University, February 18-19.
2007 VI Encuentro Nacional: Kennesaw, Georgia, Kennesaw State University.
2008 VII Encuentro Nacional: Villa Maria, Pennsylvania, October.
2009 VIII Encuentro Nacional: Omaha, Nebraska, St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall, October 2-4.

Scope and Content

Series 1, Correspondence, [2001-1995]: The correspondence includes budgets, financial reports, and a job description for a project coordinator, 2005. Several items were written in Spanish.

Series 2, Photography, [1992-1995]: Color prints of events in Arizona, California, and Florida.

Series 3, Publications, 2001, 2004, n.d.: Issues of El Maya Católico [newsletter], national encuentro program booklet, and brochure (1 copy = Spanish, 1 copy = English).

Series 4, Recordings, 1992-1993: These recordings in Spanish include a lecture on Maya civilization by Victor Montejo, University of Connecticut, 1992; a Mass celebrated by Padre López Silvestre for the Santa Eulalia Community of Homestead, Florida, 1992, and a Fiesta de Santa Eulalla in Los Angeles, California, 1993.

The fiesta honors the Virgin of Santa Eulalia, the patron saint and namesake of the municipality (rural township) of Santa Eulalia in the Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, which is the parish of origin for these Q'anjobale Indians in Florida and California.

Restrictions: There are no restrictions to this collection. However, researchers assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright which may be involved in the use of these records. Consult an archivist for further information.


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