Mary Burke is always seeking God’s presence in her life. After all, it should be a part of every Catholic’s daily existence.
Several years ago, she sought out spiritual direction. Others noticed her attention to the Lord; several asked if she’d ever consider becoming a spiritual director, including her own spiritual director.
“I guess people saw that I am earnestly seeking to deepen my relationship with God,” said Burke, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in University City. “A good spiritual director is about helping a person deepen their relationship with God and to discern what is God’s voice and what is not God’s voice.”
In November, Burke was one of 16 people who were commissioned as spiritual directors, after completing a training offered through the archdiocesan Catholic Renewal Center. The certification program equips parishes with trained individuals to help others in their spiritual journey. A special grant of $5,000 from the Annual Catholic Appeal helped launch the program.
Jane Guenther, director of the Catholic Renewal Center, reiterated the need for more spiritual directors in the archdiocese.
“With the diminishing number of priests available in a parish, we knew lay people needed to be able to be trained to be spiritual directors at their parishes,” she said, adding that the program was designed to be easily attainable (certification is earned in one year) and affordable. “There are many good people who are steeped in their faith that have a desire to help other people on the journey, but couldn’t leave town to acquire a direction certificate at a three-year intensive program.”
Deacon Dan Schmitt has gotten to know quite a few people for the past 16 years at Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie. Often he’d meet with people one on one to talk about spiritual-related topics. While in formation to become a permanent deacon, he’d often meet with another male friend for breakfast and talk about being Catholic husbands and fathers, and sharing their walk with Christ.
The friend eventually asked Deacon Schmitt if he’d consider being his spiritual director. “I knew enough to tell him I wasn’t qualified,” he said. “More and more people began reaching out to me to seek clarity or kick things around.”
Other friends began seeking him out to talk about spiritual matters. One day, his pastor, Msgr. Ted Wojcicki, asked him to stick around after Mass. He, too, asked if Deacon Schmitt had ever considered becoming a spiritual director. Having his pastor’s blessing was just the nudge he needed. Spending some time with God in eucharistic adoration sealed the deal.
Deacon Schmitt knew Jane Guenther through his involvement with a prayer ministry team and learned about the certification program. He also was commissioned in November and expects he will serve as a spiritual director recommended by the priests at Immaculate Conception. There’s also the possibility of referrals via the Catholic Renewal Center, too.
“I am looking forward to helping people to have a closer relationship with Christ,” Deacon Schmitt said. “We talk about our walk with Christ and our relationship with Him, and things like our daily prayer habits, but it’s got to be a relationship,” he said. “You can’t have a relationship with somebody unless you’re spending time with them. God is always seeking us out, but if we don’t return that, it’s not going to be fruitful.”
Questions to ask yourself when seeking a spiritual director
• What are you truly seeking from spiritual direction? (For example, are you actively discerning a vocation? Thinking about the details is important.)
• Are you looking for a priest or a lay person?
• If you are open to a lay person, are you looking for a woman, man or does it make no difference?
• Are you looking for a director who is more “directive” (like a teacher) or more “contemplative” (like a blood-hound for the Holy Spirit)?
• Can you describe how you pray? (such as images, feelings, Scripture texts, words, memories, meditation, contemplation, etc.)
Seeking a spiritual director?
The archdiocesan Catholic Renewal Center offers recommendations of spiritual directors. For more information, email [email protected]. To learn more about the center, see www.archstl.org/catholic-renewal-center.