(Front row l-r) Deacon Greg Sass, workshop co-director; Fr. Jim Hoerter, McLaughlin; Fr. David Axtmann, Sioux Falls Diocese; and Carole Brown, workshop co-director. (Middle row l-r) Diane Say, Spearfish; Mary Thomas, Rapid City; Gail Wingert, Rapid City; and Sr. Elizabeth Greim, Syracuse Diocese.
(Back row l-r) LaVerne Tragmoe, Great Falls-Billings Diocese; Cathy Smith, Faith; and Deacon Bill White, Porcupine. (Courtesy photo)
‘Help guide our people into a closer union with God’
Spiritual Direction can be defined as the director assisting the directee to “pay attention to God’s personal communication with (them)…to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship” as described in the book, The Practice of Spiritual Direction.
A new program to train Spiritual Directors is being held at the Sioux Spiritual Center, Howes, under the direction of Co-Directors Dr. Carole Brown and Deacon Greg Sass. The first day of the new Covenant School of Spiritual Direction was September 12, 2021.
The school came about after many years of prayer and the growing need of trained Spiritual Directors in the diocese. In August 2020, Mike and Bev Firmin from the Alleluia School of Spiritual Direction were leading an eight-day Ignatian Retreat at the Sioux Spiritual Center. In visiting with Carole, they said the center would be the perfect place for a program. Carole coordinated a meeting between the Firmins and the small group working on a program, and a little over a year later, with the help of the Mike and Bev, in collaboration with the University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D., the Covenant School of Spiritual Direction began.
“Each of the three two-week sessions has a focus on prayer, healing, or growth. Each session also covers the foundational elements of spiritual direction, incorporates personal and corporate prayer, individual spiritual direction, practice in the skills of direction, with in-depth teaching each week on the session’s focused topic,” said Deacon Greg.
In the first week, Dr. Carole Brown presented the “Survey of the Masters in Prayer,” where she took in-depth looks at St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux. In the second week, Ellen Hogarty, President of Our Lady’s Youth Center, which operates the ministries of The Lord’s Ranch Community in El Paso, TX, taught St. Ignatius’ Rules of Discernment, and the Examen Prayer.
According to Co-Directors Carole and Deacon Greg, “The Covenant School is not primarily academic, but rather spiritually transforming. There are no tests, and no papers are required. The curriculum is rigorous, with a packed schedule of presentations, practice and prayer during each of the two-week sessions.”
Besides the three two-week sessions, the program also requires making an 8-day silent directed retreat between the first and second session. And completion of a 16-week practicum between the second and third session.
As Bishop Peter Muhich wrote in a letter to the Priests and Deacons in the Diocese in late June 2021, “The three-year program will produce trained spiritual directors from among our own clergy, religious and laity to help guide our people into a closer union with God, easing the load on the current cadre of spiritual directors and expanding access to this spiritual practice. The availability of one or more spiritual directors in a parish has the potential for great renewal and transformation in the life of the faithful.”