Catherine Heinhold

Year Joined: 2010
Country: Brazil
City: Sao Paulo
Focus: Pastoral Ministry
Project(s): Parish and Prison Ministry
Project Goal: Formation of lay leaders, pastoral care for inmates, and an increase in the use of forgiveness and reconciliation as tools to bring about personal and societal change.

Personal Data:

Catherine is originally from Wilmington, Delaware and has lived her adult life in Washington, D.C. where her home parish is the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. After working for several years coordinating volunteers at a medical facility for homeless men, she spent eleven years in campus ministry at Georgetown University. At Georgetown she directed the Catholic Chaplaincy as well as the Catholic retreat program, and co-created an international immersion and justice program for the students. Her call to mission rose organically from her ministry with students and her experiences and reflections with them in El Salvador, Germany, and on numerous retreats.

Current Ministry:

Catherine works in the parish of Santa Terezinha in Brasilândia, a district in the northern periphery of São Paulo. The parish is in one of the poorest areas of the city. Many families have members in prison, there is intense drug trafficking, domestic abuse, high adult illiteracy levels and many favelas (informal settlements). She spent more than three years as the parish’s Coordinator of Catechesis before moving into an advisory role. Catherine continues to participate as part of the catechetical team, giving courses to train new catechists and ongoing formation to experienced catechists. She participates in activities of the Episcopal Sector, which includes organizing sector-wide formation opportunities, liturgical celebrations and actions to raise awareness about urgent social issues in the region.

Catherine’s second ministry is as a member of the Archdiocesan Prison Ministry. One aspect of that work is giving courses in forgiveness, reconciliation and restorative justice to inmates and prison ministry volunteers. She also visits men’s and women’s prisons outside the city of São Paulo where she provides pastoral care, including small faith-sharing groups and helps inmates keep in contact with their families.

When she can, Catherine also assists with retreats and other activities at the Anchietanum, a Jesuit young adult center.

Catherine’s ministries meet the following needs:

– developing lay leaders who can take ownership of and pass on their own faith and faith tradition;
– helping catechists develop skills to express themselves, ask critical questions, and make connections between faith and all other areas of their lives;
– pastoral care and spiritual direction for young adults;
– skill-development in forgiveness, reconciliation and communication;
– awareness-raising and advocacy for a justice system that is restorative rather than punitive;
– helping inmates maintain ties with their families (a basic human need, as well as an aid to reduce recidivism); and
– developing inmates’ reflection skills in order to know more deeply the God who loves them unconditionally.