New Spiritual Direction course to be offered in Connecticut

The Immaculate Conception Center (ICC) in Putnam, Connecticut is a project of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a congregation founded by Marian Renovator Blessed George Matulaitis in 1918 in Marijampole, Lithuania. In 1936 the Marian Fathers in nearby Thompson requested the community to send Sisters to help them with their ministry. In response, five Sisters from Lithuania were sent to start a mission in the United States. To this day, the Sisters continue to share their resources and their varied American experience with their community and Church in their homeland. 

Dan Shaughnessy, ICC director, shares details of the exciting an new three-year spiritual direction course collaboration between the ICC and Franciscan University of Steubenville, starting in January 2023.

Is the spiritual direction collaboration new?
Yes. Earlier this year, at the recommendation of a Marian priest — Fr. Allen Alexander, MIC — I enrolled in the School of Spiritual Direction myself and traveled to Steubenville for two weeks in the summer for the first intensive course in the program. It has been a transformative experience for me. At ICC, we have been looking for ways to expand our outreach to the community in terms of faith formation and evangelization, and this project seemed like the perfect opportunity. I am so grateful to be able to bring the program to our corner of the country in New England.

What would make someone a good fit for the program?
Those who are considering the program should take time to discern whether God is calling them to this ministry of spiritual direction. All Catholics are welcome to apply, whether they be lay people, ordained clergy, or consecrated religious. In terms of discerning this call, take time to reflect if God has given you the desire and gifts needed to accompany others on their personal journey of faith. A potential applicant should be a mature Christian with a commitment to grow in their faith and an openness to discover how the Holy Spirit is at work in their own life and the lives of others.

How is the program structured?
Those who enter the program will attend the two week intensive courses once a year for three years, after which they will be certified as spiritual directors. The instruction during the two-week courses is rigorous and comprehensive. In addition to lectures, participants also engage in real life practicum experience, giving and receiving direction from their classmates in a supervised setting. 

The dates for the three-year cycle are Jan. 29 – Feb. 11, 2023; Jan. 28 – Feb. 10, 2024; and Jan. 26 – Feb. 8, 2025.

During the rest of each year when the courses are not in session, participants continue to be actively engaged in the program by receiving spiritual direction themselves; offering regular spiritual direction to at least one directee; receiving supervision from an experienced director; completing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; and eventually leading one of their directees through the Spiritual Exercises. In addition, there is an extensive list of books that participants are required to read at each stage in the program.

How will Franciscan University operate the class in your retreat center?
Program director, Robert Seimens, and other excellent Franciscan University instructors will be teaching the course on-site at our retreat center in Connecticut.  During the two-week courses, our facility will provide an environment where students can come away from their daily affairs and focus their attention on the instructional process, while immersed in an atmosphere of prayer and contemplation.  The course challenges participants to explore and deepen their own relationship with the Lord, so it seems fitting to host it at a retreat center.  

What excites you about this new program?
One of the reasons that I am passionate about this program is because there is a great longing for spiritual accompaniment and guidance among so many Catholics today. It is such a gift both to be able to receive and offer spiritual direction; my prayer is that God will use this program to raise up a host of Spirit-filled spiritual directors who can serve the faithful for many years to come. The training of spiritual directors is certainly a cause worth supporting and nurturing, as the benefits to the Body of Christ are incalculable.

Visit ImmaculateConceptionCenter.org/Programs to learn more or to register. Applications are due by Dec. 1.
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