‘Once a missioner, always a missioner’ - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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In the informal settlement of Bangla near Mombasa (2019 photo by Jerry Fleury)

Dear friends and family,

As you may know, I am returning to Kenya in the new year to once again serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner. From 2018 until 2021, I worked in a medical dispensary in the informal settlement of Bangla, near the city of Mombasa.

Since returning to the States, I have been enjoying the comforts of home, but the thought of returning to Kenya has never been far from my mind and heart. I began to reflect on Maryknoll’s program for missioners who have returned home: “Once a missioner, always a missioner.”

With the kids at St. Patrick’s School in Bangla (2019)

Maryknoll believes that mission doesn’t end for us when we return home. From our experiences overseas, we bring a unique perspective and ability to continue to make positive changes in our local community, our country and globally. Through my own experience, I’d like to add that the heart of a missioner is forever changed with service to the poor, the oppressed and other marginalized populations.

After much reflection and prayer, I feel that God and my missioner heart are calling me back to Kenya.

It was not an easy decision. When I returned home, I had a new appreciation for all the many blessings I have — things I had taken for granted. I have a house, and I do not need bars on my windows for safety. I have a refrigerator filled with food, and I am not concerned about if I can eat but rather what I want to eat. I have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and hot showers.

I was fortunate to have some of these things when I lived in Kenya, but I witnessed such extreme poverty among people who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, how they would pay their rent of $8 (US) per month for a one room mud house or how they would get clean water.

So why do I want to go back? Because that is where God wants me to be. I remain healthy, independent, and I am following my heart.

I am preparing to leave on Jan. 3. As a returning missioner, I did not participate in the full Maryknoll orientation program again, and I will not need to return to language school for Swahili (thank goodness!). However, I will be part of the Maryknoll Sending Class of 2023, which includes three new missioners who will be going to El Salvador, Cambodia and Kenya. The Sending Ceremony on Dec. 2 in El Paso, Texas will be livestreamed on Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Facebook page (see details below).

Maryknoll lay missioner Kathy Dunford in Kitale

Maryknoll lay missioners have worked in healthcare in the Diocese of Kitale, Kenya, for many years. Pictured here, physician assistant Kathy Dunford (2008-2013).

As I write this, I know that I will be serving in Kitale, which is a poor, rural area in the western mountains of Kenya, near the Uganda border. There are three small hospitals there, overseen by the Catholic Church. I will be working in one of them and will find appropriate housing after I arrive there.

To my many donors who supported me and my ministry in Mombasa, thank you! You enabled me to help so many with wheelchairs, medications, eye glasses, school fees, etc. Your generosity was endless! I hope I can count on your continued support and prayers.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners depends on individual donors to help fund the many expenses connected with training, sending and sustaining us missioners in our various ministries. As my friends and family, I am asking you to join me in my mission journey in Kenya by helping meet my (and our) support needs.

In my future newsletters, once I am settled in my new ministry, I will let you know how, together, we can help the people of Kitale with their specific needs.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners may send some of you additional e-newsletters and appeals. If you prefer to be taken off those lists but want to continue to receive my newsletters, please use the “update profile” rather than the “unsubscribe” option at the bottom of any newsletter.

I invite you to walk with me on my journey to Kitale. Stay tuned for my future newsletters, and if you have any questions, please email me with the button below.

P.S. The Orientation program for the “Class of 2023” of new Maryknoll lay missioners will conclude with a Sending Ceremony during a Mass with Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. (Mountain Time; i.e., 11 a.m. Central). If you are able, please join us that day by watching the livestream of the celebration on Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Facebook page.


Kathy Flatoff
In January 2024 Kathy Flatoff is returning to serve as a Maryknoll lay missioner nurse in Kenya, this time in the Diocese of Kitale. She previously worked at St. Patrick's Dispensary, a health clinic in a poor, informal settlement in Mombasa, Kenya.