20th anniversary of a Chilean spirituality center - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Judy Ress (left) walking the labyrinth at Tremonhue, southeast of Santiago, Chile (Maryknoll Photo by Sean Sprague).

On April 22, Tremonhue, our eco-spirituality and holistic health center, celebrated our 20th anniversary! Our invitation read, in part, “We invite you to come through the door once again so we can remember, give thanks and celebrate these years of journeying together.”

Tremonhue — in Mapudungun, the language of the Mapuche people — means “place of healing.” And over the years, it has become just that: it is the place itself, nestled deeply in a canyon surrounded by the majestic Andean range, that heals and offers a sense of belonging to those who cross its threshold.

The invitation to the 20th anniversary celebration of Tremonhue on April 22, 2023.

A bit of history: Tremonhue is home to the Capacitar team here in Chile.

Since the 1990s, we have been part of a marvelous network of facilitators throughout the world who practice and teach holistic healing techniques to grassroots groups.

Capacitar’s mission is “to heal ourselves and heal our world. We teach body-based practices that empower people to use their inner wisdom to heal and transform themselves, to heal injustice and build peace in their families and communities. Capacitar is an international network of empowerment and solidarity connecting people across borders, ethnicities and beliefs. Our name ‘Capacitar’ means to awaken, to encourage, to bring each other to life.”

The Capacitar team grew out of a Maryknoll project in the 1980s called the Center for Reflection and Popular Education (CRP) begun by Maryknoll priests Tom Henehan and Terry Cambias and Canadian priest Andre Drapeau. CRP’s main objective focused on the formation of lay Christians — both within and outside of church structures — acquainting them with popular education tools so that they could shape a more just Chilean society.

Tremonhue is located about an hour southeast of Santiago, Chile, in a canyon surrounded by the majestic Andean mountain range.

Key target groups were Christian base communities, young people, workers’ groups and pastoral agents. The goal throughout its 11-year existence was to form “popular educators” in the area of scripture and theology, social analysis and popular education methodology.

In 1990, with the return to civilian rule after 17 years of military dictatorship here in Chile, the work of CRP shifted. The Christian base communities lost their dynamism as many grassroots groups began to organize in new ways and no longer needed the protection of the church to meet. CRP re-organized into three target teams: the biblical team, the ecology team, and the women’s team. Eventually, the biblical and ecological teams merged with other like-minded NGOs, and only CRP’s women’s team continued.

In 1993, we experienced two major events that charted our way into the future: Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara came to Chile and gave a seminar on holistic ecofeminism, and Pat Cane came and began teaching what would become Capacitar holistic health practices (Pat later went on to help found and become executive director of Capacitar International).

Our women’s team, now experts in popular education methodology, combined the insights of ecofeminism and the practices of Capacitar and began giving workshops throughout Chile — and beyond. Our team was invited to China for the UN Women’s conference in 1995. The women’s team of CRP gradually morphed into Capacitar-Chile.

We are now an NGO, and some of the original members of the CRP team (including myself) are still involved in developing programs, workshops and rituals that expand the notion of holistic health and spirituality to the entire earth community.

Judy (in the white shirt) leading a workshop at Tremonhue (Maryknoll Photo by Sean Sprague).

In 2003, with Maryknoll’s help, we were able to buy from the Archdiocese of Santiago what was once a project of the Maryknoll brothers in San Alfonso, a small village about an hour outside Santiago in the Andean mountains. This is now the site of Tremonhue, Capacitar’s home.

At the center of the Center is our labyrinth, a replica of the labyrinth on the floor of the Chartres cathedral in France. It is here where we continue to give our workshops in holistic health and eco-spirituality. Today we suspect that we are in the forefront here in Chile of teaching what is being called the “new cosmology,” based on the insights of Thomas Berry and his many followers.

These days Tremonhue is open to like-minded groups offering workshops in circle dancing, biodance, shamanic postures, masculine and feminine archetypes — and most recently formation in the methodology originating with Buddhist ecologist Joanna Macy and “the work that reconnects.”

Ritual has become a hallmark for Tremonhue: We celebrate the changing of the seasons and often offer the “Cosmic Walk,” a ritual we learned from Genesis Farm.

You are always welcome here! And if you would like to learn more, visit out website at tremonhue.com

Judy Ress
Judy Ress (Class of 1990) served for 20 years as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Chile. An ecofeminist theologian, she is a co-founder of Centro Tremonhue, a spirituality and holistic health center in San Alfonso, Chile. She is the author of Ecofeminism in Latin America (Orbis) and two novels.