Father Joseph Dillon: a missionary for the work of Dr. Edward Bach


by Father Joseph Dillon, edited by Jann Garitty

Editor’s note: Father Joseph, a native of Ireland, lives and works in Brazil. Over the years, he and his colleagues have developed a unique way of bringing the work of Dr. Bach to people in outlying areas. Volunteer community health practitioners receive support for their work and learn about the Bach flower remedies through interactive, dynamic workshops. Following is information about Father Joseph’s work as a missionary and a report from him on a series of workshops held in the region of Rondônia, Brazil. The various specific activities and their purpose for inclusion in the workshops are detailed by Father Joseph and should be inspiring to read for anyone who provides education on the Bach flower remedies or flower essence therapy in general.



Father Joseph's report on teaching in Rondônia


Providing a venue to discuss difficulties and support practitioners in their work


Interactive activities undertaken in the workshop:
1. Morning exercises
2. “River of Life” drawing activity and discussion
3. Interactive activity illustrating the qualities of Impatiens and Chicory
4. Observation and discussion about Holly
5. Making bread; an analogy for the importance of each person in community with others
6. The life and philosophy of Dr. Bach through dance and drama
7. Cherry Plum: plant observation, drawing and healing the negative quality
8. The path of light: planning for a better world 
9. Working with the philosophy of Dr. Bach: Heal Thy Self
10. Storytelling: developing personal potential
11. Storytelling and origami: increasing self-esteem
12. The balloon game: recognition of qualities and contemplating the development of virtues
13. Circle dances: to create unity


Therapeutic time given to participants by the workshop facilitators

Personal transformation and working for a better world


I thank God for those who introduced me to the remedies as I have discovered a marvellous way of combining pastoral counselling with a very simple method of restoring the harmony between body and soul and thus healing the person.


In 1992, Father Joseph Dillon (Padre Jose), a Divine Word Missionary, first discovered the Bach remedies and their value for helping people with emotional difficulties. With others who had more understanding of the essences, he initiated monthly sessions to help people of his parish. They also began working with other alternative remedies—plants and herbs—providing them to people who had no access to the plants in the city of São Paulo.

“While some people came to us with physical problems, we helped them see that there may be an emotional cause to their problem and so we treated the physical with the herbal remedies and the emotional with the flower essences.”

Other therapists soon became involved in the healing work as well, offering their skills such as massage, reiki, do-in, shiatsu, counselling, nutrition, geotherapy, hydrotherapy, etc.

This work has been going on now for 16 years and while some of the original people have changed, the work continues. “We have always given courses to train people and we hope that they will come back as volunteer workers in the future.”

Father Joseph currently serves another parish about 80 km from where the original work began, but he returns every month to help out. In the parish where he now resides, he has started teaching other people about herbal medicine. He also hopes to start a new course on flower remedies for those who cannot afford the very costly official courses that exist in Brazil. His experiences have given him new perspectives on how to teach the flower remedies to people who do not have a university education.

Father Joseph became acquainted with and was much impressed by the work of a missionary sister of the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Rondônia (northwestern Brazil) in the Amazonian region.  Recently in collaboration, they offered a course to the “agents de saude” and the “Pastoral de Saude.” The name of the course was “cuidar os cuidadores com os florais de Bach” or “looking after those who look after others with Bach flowers.” “It was a wonderful experience and thanks to the preparations beforehand, we were able to be in contact with 270 health practitioners over a period of 15 days in six different towns.”

It’s hoped that next year the course can be exported to Angola and to other mission territories. “What is important is that the work of Dr. Bach is not confined to only an elite group of people who can afford the price of this form of treatment.” 

Father Joseph's report on teaching in Rondônia

The team of people teaching in the state of Rondônia consisted of  Sister Marialva (Brazilian), Luciana Chammas (Brazilian), Fr. Joe Dillon (Irish), and Carmen Coelho (Venezuelan).

The events occurred in six different cities in Rôndonia in order to facilitate the attendance for those who live and work in remote locations that are difficult to access. Cities that have regional headquarters for the Pastoral Health movement were chosen, and whenever possible, the work was done outdoors under the canopy of trees.

Providing a venue to discuss difficulties and support practitioners in their work

The objective of this workshop was to provide a space for the health groups and people where they could talk about their problems, find ways to be in harmony, and strengthen themselves as individuals who are professional care-givers.

Through workshops, games, dances, discussions and art, the participants reflected on issues such as tolerance, love, health, self-esteem and self-knowledge, all attitudes essential for true, healthy human relationships. The themes were inspired by the philosophy and flower remedies of Dr. Edward Bach; the remedies are known by many of the partcipants and are an element of their therapy practice. The facilitators worked with questions, letting the group itself through reflection and discussion, find solutions to transform their personal and professional difficulties into positive experiences.

The participants were in the majority women, who live in rural areas. They are small farmers who take care of the earth, home, the children and go a few times each week to the Pastoral Health clinic where they attend to the people in their communities. In their therapeutic practice, they use homeopathy, phytotherapy, medicinal herbs, and Bach flowers. Despite the low educational level, they are people of great wisdom and sensitivity. They have an experience of life that has helped them to mature rapidly.

Several testimonies showed that many of these practitioners began their work after a personal illness or an illness in the family. The illness led them to the Pastoral Health movement, where they were treated and cured. From this experience, they make a commitment to take care of their fellow man, and bring relief to the pain that they themselves have experienced. Others mentioned an “emptiness” which was filled from their work as practitioners. Attending the meeting were both young people and elderly, who are still actively working as care-givers.

The workshops were conducted during the course of two days. During the first day, in addition to an exercise in which the history of the lives of the participants as practitioners is learned,  the qualities that are essential to working in groups and in community care were discussed. Among other things, we talked about: compassion, unconditional love, respecting the pace of the group, and serenity. The first day ended with a celebration, where the groups were asked to think about goals and commitments for achieving a better world.

On the second day, we worked with the philosophy of Dr. Bach and how it can serve as the basis for the personal and professional life of each person. This day was also devoted to fostering self-confidence and the value that each participant is to humanity as a whole.

Interactive activities undertaken in the workshop

1. Morning exercises

2. “River of Life” drawing activity and discussion

Objective: through drawing, relate the history of the participants and health workers.

Process: the players were invited to draw their “River of Life,” with wax pencils on white paper, representing through the elements of nature (stones, flowers, branches, trees, etc.), their experiences as practitioners. The drawing was submitted to a colleague and then the experiences, problems and successes were discussed with the entire group.

In this exercise, the problems presented by all groups were virtually the same: lack of support from family (when they were beginning their work with Pastoral Health), criticism and envy, financial difficulties, gossip, and their own fear of starting as therapists.

When asked about the positive experiences that helped them to persevere in this work, they cited the support of family, gratitude, and recognition of the many success stories they received through the practice of their therapies. The support of the group also is a positive point in this work. By putting on paper their history, they had the opportunity to see that they are capable of overcoming obstacles. In addition, for every problem solved, they perceive personal growth and reaffirm their commitments to caring for others. On completion of this work, it became clear that dialogue, tolerance, recognition of their failures, support and confidence in the group (and themselves) are essential for success in community work.

3. Interactive activity illustrating the qualities of Impatiens and Chicory

Objective: through the playing of games, topics such as love / unconditional service are addressed as related to the flower remedy Chicory, and the pace of the group interacting in the activity, citing another flower remedy Impatiens.

the group is placed in a circle. Each participant receives a ball of paper. He must pass the ball with his right hand and receive another with the left hand. This movement is repeated, to the sound of a song sung by them. At the end of the song, some are without the ball, others have a ball and still others have more than one ball in their hands.

They were questioned about why the game did not go right (when the music ends, each participant should have a ball in hand). All agree that the pace (Impatiens) of the group is important, and that they have to be concerned only with the ball passing through their hands and not with one that they will receive (Chicory).

4. Observation and discussion on Holly

Objective: present a flower remedy that speaks about Universal Love, through the observation of the plant and make an analogy with the human being. Discuss the virtues that this flower redeems.

Process: each participant receives a photo card of the Holly plant. They observe the plant and then reveal their impressions referring to such things as light, shadow, thorns, red fruit, how nice the plant looks with intense green leaves, the leaves are close to one another, etc. After several points are presented, we make the analogy with the human being and talk about the virtue that this flower rescues: Universal Love and attitudes that are contrary to this feeling: hatred, revenge, jealousy and, above all, indifference to the pain in and of others.
This experience is enriched with music, the Brahms lullaby, which would refer to childhood and to peace. Then played was the sound of gunfire and explosions in a war. A story of the First World War is told in which the soldiers stopped shooting at one another for a moment and had a truce to celebrate Christmas. Even in moments of extreme hatred, we are able to redeem love and live in harmony.

This exercise was concluded with the formation of a spiral circle, with everyone holding hands. Each person was asked to close in as much as possible until they could feel the breathing of the group, and think of the love of a mother carrying her child in the womb; we reflected on being part of the whole of humanity and as such reinforced the idea of universal brotherhood.

5. Making bread; an analogy for the importance of each person in community with others
Objective: to address the importance of the group, making the analogy with the ingredients used in the mass (bread and wine) and the importance of each in the mixture.

Process: the group is invited to knead the bread. We discussed the ingredients (flour, water, oil, yeast, salt, sugar), amounts and how to make the dough. We call attention to the fact that alone these ingredients are not ingested, but when you mix them all together, we make the bread that can feed people. We included Holly in the mixture, symbolizing the universal love that we seek to develop in ourselves to spread around the world. This bread was shared during the same day in a religious ceremony.

6. The life and philosophy of Dr. Bach through dance and drama

Objective: practice vision and hearing observation, get in touch with feelings through role-play, creating a moment of leisure and relaxation, and relating an experience in the life of Dr. Bach.

Process: in this activity, a narration is given of an experience in Dr. Bach’s life when he noticed the different behaviors of guests at a party to which he attended. Couples (predetermined) are called to dance, representing temperaments described by Dr. Bach. The other participants are to guess which character was being represented by a couple. The temperaments that were used:

Clematis – the couple danced without worrying about the pace of the music, and when it stops, they continued dancing
Mimulus – the couple dance timidly
Water Violet – the couple dance with an attitude of arrogance and distance from the group
Impatiens – dancing and arguing with the partner
Chicory – one partner who wants to be close, suffocating the other during the dance
Scleranthus – this couple does not dance; they go to the center of the floor, start dancing but return to their chairs. They repeat this movement throughout the dance.

Water Violet

When the music stops, the couples say phrases that reinforce the characterization of temperament that they are representing. When the game ends, the players were questioned about their work as a team, as when we have to recognize that people have different temperaments (like in the dancing) and how to deal with these situations.

Once again, we talk about tolerance, acceptance, respect, learning to listen and dialogue. We did a reflection on the possibility of everyone being equal with the same temperament and whether this would facilitate relations. All groups agreed that the difficulties would be even greater. From this idea, it was concluded that the difference is necessary because it stimulates creativity, courage, respect and tolerance, attitudes that enrich the group, while they provide conditions for the personal growth of each in their community work.

7. Cherry Plum: plant observation, drawing and healing the negative quality

Observation of the plant, following the methodology of Goethe and artistic activity.

Objective: to make a way for participants to observe a plant, following a specific methodology, helping them to recognize and heal a moment in their life, when they totally lost their serenity.

Process: participants work in pairs and observe the photo card of the plant Cherry Plum, in four steps. After the fourth step, we discuss with the group what were the feelings that flowered, and characteristics of the plant in question. Then the participants are asked to go through a meditation, and put peace and light into that moment of their life when the dark thoughts and tangles overcame their mind (Cherry Plum negative). The drawing is done with paint brush and white gouache on thick black paper.

In this activity, participants worked in silence. Many of the drawings show the concern on the part of their creators, to apply on the paper as much as possible with white, so that the black should be eliminated. After all have finished, participants are invited to observe all the paintings, taking the attitude of children and looking with admiration and without judgement.

8. The path of light: planning for a better world
Objective: to meditate on what has been worked on, setting goals for transformation into a ritual of personal commitment.

Process: participants draw their right feet on a sheet of white paper and cut out the design. They then write on the design how they want to see the world in the future and what attitudes they willing to adopt to help the world to achieve this desire. We mapped out a path and it was illuminated by candles which each participant carried in a small procession, and placing the candle beside the foot with his written commitment. During a religious celebration, participants are invited to express their desires for a better world. After this ceremony, bread prepared that afternoon, was shared by all. Among the desires, those which most stood out were: social equality, world peace, health and nutrition for all. In regard to the attitudes that they are ready to adopt in order to achieve this goal were education, caring for others, continue struggling for a better life and also in the strengthening of  the family.

9. Working with the philosophy of Dr. Bach: Heal Thy Self

Objective: to know the philosophy of Dr. Bach and discuss how it can be used in daily life as individuals and as health workers.

Process: groups of 4 to 6 people were formed. Each group received a part of the teachings of Dr. Bach, an excerpt of the book Heal Thy Self. Each group read the chapter from which these thoughts were extracted, they reflected upon and discussed their ideas. With all the groups together, the quotes were read and discussed. This exercise has led all groups to major discussions and personal reflections. Many illustrated these quotes with stories from their personal and professional lives.

Phrases such as “the disease is the result of the conflict between the Soul and Mind ... ,” “The real and basic diseases of man are some flaws as pride, cruelty, hatred, the selfishness ...” and “... the doctor of the future will have two main objectives ...” reinforced in these people the idea that the pain of the soul should also be healed. These practitioners  understood at the outset that the work begins in themselves. To be a good practitioner they must be good human beings, caring for themselves, keeping the mind and emotions balanced and transforming failures into virtues. Only then will they be able to exercise their work of service. One participant said that these concepts should be discussed in religious temples, because they are dealing with issues that speak of healing the soul, personal relations and emotional diseases that affect all humanity.

10. Storytelling: developing personal potential

Objective: to reflect on the talents and gifts of each person, and ask whether or not they make a contribution to their communities; and to strengthen in the participants, a recognition of their potentials and their responsibility to develop them.

Process: The book The Eagle and the Chicken, a metaphor on the human condition, by Leonardo Boff—a book about an eagle that was reared as a chicken, was read to the group. In a first version, the eagle dies as a chicken, because it was convinced it was simply a chicken. Participants are asked about their place in history, whether they are a chicken or an eagle, and on their luck in life. At this stage, some participants agreed that they were “hens,” sometimes under pressure by the family, or by not having enough self-confidence to launch themselves as practitioners. They also said that the eagle erred in not trying to fly, because only that way could it discover his potential.

In a second version, the end of the text is amended and the eagle, even resisting and afraid, is thrown into the abyss and is forced to fly, and it recognizes itself as an eagle. This reading is followed by questions that discuss and explain the difficulties they have encountered and overcome, and the factors that prevent them from developing their talents. The impediments, most of the time come from fear, an inferiority complex (many have very little reading abilities) and the precarious conditions to which they are subjected, such as lack of money, and difficulties in walking great distances. Some cite that the group often takes the place of the “hunter” that launches the “eagle into the abyss” so that it learns to fly. All agree that by joining in community work, despite the difficulties, there was personal growth.

11. Storytelling and origami: increasing self-esteem

Objective: to allow the participants to come into contact with the feelings of inadequacy and increase their self-esteem.

Process: the story is read to the participants. In this version, the “duck” has several situations where it is despised by the group. But it does not give up, and is always looking for a place where it can feel accepted. Finally, it feels able to fly and find its place among the other swans. After the reading, there is a reflection on the attitude of the “duck” to seek a new environment and his capacity for perseverance. The participants acknowledged the importance of finding a group where you feel welcome and are able to experiment.

After the discussion, the participants made a swan by folding paper and then writing on it, a talent that they have and of which they are proud.  In this exercise, some of the talents mentioned are love, forgiveness, caring, trying,  having friends, learning, and fighting for causes.

12. The balloon game: recognition of qualities and contemplating the development of virtues

Objectives: to create a moment of leisure and relaxation, recognize qualities in themselves, working toward self-esteem.

Process: in this exercise, participants write on a small piece of paper a virtue that they possess. This paper is placed inside a balloon. After blowing up the balloon, participants play with the balloon and finally it explodes by  pressing it against the belly of a colleague. Each one will pick up the piece of paper that has fallen on the ground and sees the virtue that someone else had written. Many agreed that the virtue that they received is something that they have as yet to develop. Among the virtues we found were faith, humility, patience, perseverence, knowing how to listen to and be with others.

13. Circle dances: to create unity

Objective: to close the proceedings with an activity that would unite all the participants in one motion and one song. Three dances were performed: Al Achat, Gratefulness and Return to Peace.

14. Therapeutic time given to participants by the workshop facilitators

The facilitators worked as therapists and put themselves at the disposal of those who needed flower essences.

Personal transformation and working for a better world

Based on the reviews we had at the end of the workshops, we can conclude that the discussions were very productive. The participants were very happy and had a glow in their eyes. They felt recognized and saw the experience as a source from which they could draw forces for their work and their personal lives.

Although the initial objective was to open a space for “caring for carers,” the results went beyond because these practitioners had the opportunity to recognize the importance of their role as individuals and as community workers in the construction of a better world. In addition, they realized that whatever the necessary change is to be, it must start within themselves.

We will never know the full extent of our work as educators because some participants expressed the desire to pass on their experiences to other practitioners. In addition, others undoubtedly will take the time to reflect upon themselves and work on personal transformation. Regardless, these practitioners now radiate their joy, faith, hope and certainty that, as Dr. Bach said:

Life does not demand of us unthinkable sacrifices; it asks us to travel its journey with joy in our heart and to be a blessing to those around, so that if we leave the world just that trifle better for our visit, then have we done our work.

Write to Father Joseph Dillon


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