Carlos Maldonado was born in San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala, one of nine children in his family. As a young man of 23 in the midst of a brutal civil war that went for 36 years, Carlos volunteered at the San Lucas Mission, laying the foundation for a new building that was eventually used as a library and dining hall. Under the guidance of Fr. Greg Schaefer of Sleepy Eye and the School Sisters, Carlos worked hard and made steady progress on the building. Noticing his hard work and abilities, Sr. Maureen O’Keefe asked if he would like to go to the United States. Being from a large family, he told her that he did not think that would ever be possible. In spite of the civil war looming in the background – or perhaps because of it, Fr. Greg and Sr. Maureen worked on arrangements. Just one month later on a one-way ticket, Carlos landed in St. Paul with a thirty-day tourist visa.
It was February, 1967, and the weather was bitterly cold for this newcomer from Central America. Carlos did not know one word of English. While living in St. Paul, Carlos renewed his 30-day tourist visa three times. The immigration officer finally told him that if he could be accepted into a school, he could stay for four more years on a student visa. He came to Mankato and with the help of a translator, Carlos soon passed the entrance exam. He was accepted as a student at South Central College and received his four-year student visa. Sr. Maureen O’Keefe introduced Carlos to Sr. Mary Donald, the founder of the Learning Center. Carlos was an eager student of the language and within six weeks, Sr. Mary Donald had him reading the gospel at Sunday Mass.