Healing through reconnecting with nature - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Fall 2023 newsletter


Kathy Bond and Flávio Rocha, Brazil

Flávio leading a recent ecoretreat

Dear family and friends,

From Kathy: As part of my celebration of 30 years in mission, I just completed a spiritual renewal program. The first part of the journey was a pilgrimage to St. Hildegard’s Abbey near Bingen in Germany. Nestled high above the Rhine, I was blessed to be there near the grape harvest on spectacular blue, sunny days.

At St. Hildegard’s Convent near Bingen

Only 11 years ago, Hildegard was declared a Doctor of the Church by her fellow German, Pope Benedict XVI. She lived in the 12th century and was a Benedictine nun, but equally a pioneering scientist, a theologian and a philosopher, a musician and a poet, and a physician who was particularly skilled in the methods of natural healing.

Every historical site that I visited had a natural herb garden bursting with medicinal plants, especially rosemary and lavender. She was a mentor to many, including kings, popes, other religious and ordinary folks. In her days (1098-1179), her activism unfolded in more than 390 letters that reveal her wisdom in spiritual and political matters alike.

Of all her images, the Cosmic Tree most inspires me. Hildegard asks us to pay close attention to the rhythms of nature, grounded in the belief that it holds the key to physical well-being and deep spiritual life. She invites us to become partners with nature.

“Humankind is called to co-create, so that we might cultivate the earth, and thereby create the heavenly.”

In the eco-retreats that Flavio and I facilitate, I have found that helping people reconnect with nature is also a path to reconnecting with self and others. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to open spaces of connecting and healing through my ministries with Maryknoll Lay Missioners over the last 30 years.


From Flávio: We continue facilitating our retreats. The last one was done in a beautiful green area outside of João Pessoa. Little by little, we are creating a community of people who come together for moments of reflections and friendship. We all know that it was not easy during the pandemic, and those retreat moments help people to reconnect with themselves and with the divine.

Theater of the Oppressed presentation on domestic violence

We alternate the locations for these retreats between the AFYA Holistic Center, which was created by the Maryknoll Sisters, and other places around João Pessoa, so different people also have the opportunity to join us.

In my Theater of the Oppressed ministry, our group started a series of presentations in adult literacy classes in João Pessoa.

It has been very interesting to present our play on domestic violence for this crowd. Most of them are women and some have been in this situation. For them seeing our play can stir up some emotions. That is why we always open a space after the presentation to talk about how they are feeling and what they have learned.

I am sure this is the first time that some of them are able to share this pain and I am glad that a theater play can promote this opportunity for them.


A short note about Maya: On Aug. 23 Maya moved to American University in Washington, DC, to start college. We were able to accompany her in this very important moment of her life. There were mixed feeling as parents, but we are happy that she is starting this new stage of her life with joy and determination.

We are grateful for your prayers and generous donations. May the God of life bless you and your family with abundant love and peace.

Please consider supporting our mission work in João Pessoa with a donation through the link below.

We invite you to walk with us as our “COMPANIONS IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Kathy Bond and Flávio José Rocha
Kathy Bond and Flávio José Rocha are Maryknoll lay missioners based in João Pessoa in northeastern Brazil.