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August Newsletter 2018

In Memory of Fr. Loren Riebe,
Founder Mission Teaching Foundation

It is with much sadness that we write to tell you that Fr. Loren has passed away. In June, he travelled to Losloren2 Angeles to be with his brother Gary because he had been having some health issues. For the next two months, Loren spent his time between Cedar Sinai Hospital and St. John of God Care Center. He suffered a number of setbacks and, sadly, on August 4, he passed away. Fr. Loren will be dearly missed by all those whose lives he has touched through his work on behalf of Mission Teaching Foundation.

Fr. Loren Riebe was born in Los Angeles in 1943 and was ordained a diocesan priest in 1971. He spent his first five years as a priest at St. Anne’s Parish in Santa Monica, CA. In 1974, in response to a shortage of priests in Mexico, Fr. Loren volunteered to work at the Catholic missions in Chiapas, where he spent the next 21 years as Parish Pastor in the small city of Yajalon. In 1983, he was called back to work in Los Angeles, but his commitment to the indigenous Maya to whom he had been ministering led him to stay in Chiapas and become part of the the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The indigenous Maya in the Parish of Yajalon had one consistent request: education for their children. This was the impetus behind Yashalum de Santiago Apostol. In 1990, after years of fundraising and hard work,Yashalum was incorporated under Mexican law as a Civil Association. Policy decisions are made by a Board of Directors, all of whom are indigenous Maya from the Tzeltal and Ch’ ol ethnic groups, and all of whom have had children in the Yashalum program. There is a small support staff, most of whom are university graduates who have benefitted from the MTF scholarship program, that helps administer the program.

In June, 1995, after the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Fr. Loren was arrested by the Mexican government, accused of subversive activities and expelled from Mexico along with two other foreign priests. He responded by filing a formal complaint against Mexico through the Organization of American States for violating his rights as well as for physical and psychological abuse. In 1999, he won the case (a very rare occurrence!) and returned to Mexico. However, because it was the local coffee plantation owners who had filed the complaint in fear of losing their indigenous workers, Fr. Loren had to “lay low” and dramatically limit his pastoral work in Yajalon.

In 1997, Fr. Loren and Virginia Nelson (many of you will remember her work with MTF), incorporated Mission Teaching Foundation as a 501(c)(3), to solidify MTF’s ability to support Yashalum. Fr. Loren continued his fundraising efforts on behalf of Yashalum in the U.S., and in 2007, because of the growth of the program, his brother Gary, also a priest, became the Director of MTF. loren1

No doubt, Yashalum grew beyond Fr. Loren’s wildest expectations! Over the years, hundreds of MTF supporters have made it possible for hundreds of Mayan youth to transform their lives as well as the lives of their families and communities through the education they have received. This year, there are 135 students in the program: 38 high school boys, 39 high school girls and 58 university students. The Board and Staff are committed to honoring Fr. Loren's legacy by continuing our work on behalf of the students of Yashalum, and we are grateful for your continued support of the Foundation.

While there have been many, many people involved in supporting the efforts of MTF and Yashalum over the years, it truly all began because of the love and commitment of one man: Fr. Loren Riebe. He has been loved by many and will be missed by many. May he rest in peace, and may God’s light shine upon him.

Fr. Gary Riebe, Director and The Staff of Mission Teaching Foundation


 

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