Father Emil Cook – Spiritual Director
Father Emil Cook arrived in Honduras in 1970 to begin his life’s mission to serve the poor. He began by taking in youth and helping them pursue their education, which would have been otherwise impossible for those suffering from poverty. In 1986, Fr. Emil and a group of his initial students formed APUFRAM (Association of Franciscan Boys’ and Girls’ Towns), a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through Christ-centered education. Since then, because of the generosity of many in the US and elsewhere, APUFRAM has been operating various boarding facilities for boys and girls; orphanages; elementary, junior high, and high schools; university student housing; and a single-mothers project throughout Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Fr. Emil is also dedicated to encouraging priestly vocations by preparing and sending prospective students to the seminary. Throughout the years, he has also served communities spiritually by building churches, providing for priests and pastoral workers in rural areas, and celebrating Masses. Each year, Fr. Emil spends several months traveling throughout the United States, visiting supporters, and promoting our call to be a missionary church.
Dick Landrigan – President
The youth group of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sudbury, Massachusetts, led by former members of the state National Guard who had met Father Emil Cook during a military deployment, made its first trip to APUFRAM in 1990. Dick’s first trip with the group was in 1996, and he has made a half dozen return visits helping bring almost 300 teens to learn from their brothers and sisters in Honduras. Many of the group have seen their two week experience in finding Christ in a very different place to have been a key influence in their lives.
Dick’s two children have been on each trip, and his wife Janelle brought her middle school teaching skills into play with APUFRAM students on two of the trips. Daughter Catharine was a volunteer coordinator at APUFRAM for two busy summers. Son Richard applied lessons learned in Honduras to a Peace Corps experience in Morocco.
Dick was raised in Boston, and is an attorney in Boston/Somerville, Massachusetts, specializing in litigation. He has had a close association throughout his career with the Hispanic and Vietnamese communities around Boston, utilizing his linguistic skills regularly. Days after graduating from Boston College in 1966, Dick went to Chile as a Peace Corps Volunteer. At the invitation of a community of Franciscans from Holland, he helped begin an agricultural cooperative and taught high school at the rural Misión Quilacahuín in Osorno Province. Law school at Boston College was interrupted by work in rural development projects in Sadec, Vietnam, with the Agency for International Development. After law school Dick worked with the federal government in employment discrimination law in Atlanta where he met Janelle, a native of Jacksonville, Florida.
In addition to work with his parish’s youth group, Dick teaches religious education to high school students and serves on the parish religious education commission. Dick is an assistant scoutmaster in Sudbury and serves as vice president for membership with the local Boy Scout council, focusing on extending scouting within the Hispanic community. Based directly on a connection made on his first trip to APUFRAM, Dick served for an extended period as a member of the Boston Archdiocese Central City High Schools Board of Trustees and was on the board of one of its inner-city schools. Dick looks forward to returning to APUFRAM some of the many blessings he, his family, and his parish community have received from their twenty year involvement with APUFRAM.
Cindy Glaser – Vice President/Secretary
An invitation in her diocesan newspaper from Father Emil inviting people to visit the mission was just what she was spiritually seeking. In 1997, Cindy went to Honduras for the first time, and returned again three times since then. Since her first trip, Father Emil has visited her parish or community every other year.
She and her husband, Jerry, returned in 1985 to his family farm near the small town of Spalding, nestled at the foot of the Nebraska Sandhills where they both grew up. Their operation consists of stock cows and organic grass-finished cattle. Along with pasture land, they also have an irrigated rotation crop of alfalfa and other grasses, corn or popcorn, soybeans or dry edible beans and cover crops for organic sales and grass-finished cattle production.
Mary Eckart – Treasurer
Mary and her husband, Joe, are the proud parents of six children, four boys and two girls: Bob, Maria, Christina, Andy, and twins James and John. All are grown and married except for Andy, who resides with Mary and Joe. So far, they have been blessed with 17 grandchildren. They are somewhat of an international family as one of their daughters-in-law is from Croatia, and another is from El Salvador.
Throughout her married life, in addition to her primary job as full time mom and homemaker, Mary has participated in various volunteer activities, ranging from pro-life involvement and tutoring ESL to being a certified high school gymnastics judge. Joe, Andy, and Mary belong to St. John’s Church in Russellville, Arkansas, where their children attended grade school and where both Joe and Mary serve as Eucharistic Ministers to the sick.
Mary first learned of Father Emil’s work and that of APUFRAM in Honduras in 1996 when her oldest daughter, Maria, decided to spend a year volunteering at the mission after she graduated from college. Maria taught English at the Maximillian Kolbe High School in Flores from the summer of 1996 until the summer of 1997. She even met her future husband there when he went down for a three-week mission trip with a group from Baton Rouge. Both parents had the opportunity to visit Honduras while Maria was there. Mary visited in 1996, and Joe came with the twins in 1997 with a youth group from their church. One of the twins returned to the mission four times with his university group, and Mary has since been privileged to return, as well.While there in 1996, Mary met an orphaned first-year junior-high student, Juan Javier, in one of Maria’s classes. Her family chose to sponsor Juan and continued to do so until he was in the university. They still keep in touch with him; he even attended the wedding of their son and his wife in San Salvador in 2008. They have sponsored other children since Juan, and Mary had the privilege of visiting with one of them, Johely, during trips to the mission in 2007, 2008, and 2009. During two of these later trips Mary helped the sponsorship coordinator with the translation and preparation for mailing of the student Christmas letters to their padrinos (sponsors). Because her experience with the sponsorship program has been so positive, Mary wholeheartedly recommends it to others, noting that making a personal connection with a young person and watching as they grow and achieve their goals is very rewarding.
Mary Jo Kahl
Originally from Minnesota, Mary Jo and George Kahl now reside in Winston-Salem, NC. They have four children and five grandchildren. Mary Jo retired from North Carolina Baptist Hospital where she held various positions. She also taught at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem. She is currently owner/manager of a Catholic Bookstore.
Karean VanEss Wagner
Karean began her spiritual journey towards APUFRAM with her local parish, St. Thomas the Apostle in Newton, WI. It was there that she helped to establish the youth group O.T.I.S. (Optimistic Teens Improving Society). Karean led many youth group trips to various mission sites within the United States. It was the experiences on these youth trips that led her to explore adult missions, and in 2007 she decided to make her first trip to Honduras. She has been on numerous mission trips as a volunteer, and has led adult groups in 2013 and 2014 with the help of her husband Nick. Karean and Nick currently sponsor two youths in Honduras and have had the opportunity to visit with them during their last visits to Honduras. The vision of Father Emil Cook and the children of Honduras are what keep her inspired to continue bringing others and have them experience the same blessings.
Karean has remained active in her local parish as well. She has been a Eucharistic minister at St. Thomas for over 10 years. She has been an active leader with the O.T.I.S. youth group for over 11 years and continues to lead junior and senior high school youth on yearly mission trips within the United States. She works with the Hispanic community in her parish and for over 10 years has played a vital part in their religious education classes. She is one of the teachers of their First Communion preparation classes. For her, it has been a blessing to work with the growing Latino community and youth at St. Thomas the Apostle for such a long time, and she plans on continuing to grow with both groups in the coming years.
In her personal life, Karean is currently married to Nick Wagner. Karean and Nick were united in Marriage in September 2012. The marriage was a surprise blessing, as Karean’s first husband, Jim, passed away unexpectedly in 2010. Karean and Nick each have four adult children. In 2013 Karean was blessed with her first grandson, and she loves spending time with him. Nick began taking mission trips with his now wife before they were married, and has continued to experience these trips with Karean ever since.
In her work life, Karean is the owner/operator of a small meat market located in Newton, WI. Karean and her first husband, Jim, purchased the business in 1992, and the business has been successful ever since. After Jim’s unexpected death Karean has continued to manage and run the plant with the help of two of her children, her husband Nick, and a great staff of employees. Her drive and determination help her to continue with this journey. Newton Meats is a meat processing facility that offers a retail store, wholesale route, and a slaughter facility. It has been in business for over 60 years.
While there he served for two years as a remote site director in La Barca. Will primarily worked on agricultural projects and as a translator for medical teams. While in Honduras he met and married his wife, Karla, and they now have four children.