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Archdiocese answering a hunger for spiritual direction with new web page

Wise guides: “Really, (spiritual direction) should just be a regular part of our everyday faith journey, and, again, to choose to engage with someone to accompany you for spiritual direction it doesn’t mean that you’re doing it for the rest of your life.”

BRISBANE archdiocese has launched a new web page for people searching for spiritual direction.

Recently added to the archdiocese’s website, it’s a response to public demand.

Former vicar for religious Josephite Sister Moya Campbell was receiving so many calls from people seeking the names of spiritual directors in the archdiocese that she decided it was time to compile an up-to-date list.

At the same time, spiritual director Kathryn Robbie was browsing through the archdiocese’s website one day and noticed there was no mention of spiritual directors.

They decided they would work together to help fill the gap.

They held a gathering in June last year and 42 spiritual directors attended.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge addressed them and offered his encouragement.

He said spiritual direction was an important ministry of the Church, and expressed a desire that “spiritual direction be brought out of the shadows into the light”.

As a result of the gathering, the “Spiritual Direction” webpage was created.

“What we’re trying to do in having the webpage is give people direct access and to take responsibility for choosing someone that they feel drawn to (for spiritual direction) …,” Ms Robbie said.

“We’ve got about 84 spiritual directors on our list.

“Not everybody wants a profile on the webpage … and we’re all active to different degrees.

“Some people might only be journeying with one person; somebody else might be journeying with a couple.

“The very experienced and long-term spiritual directors, they can be journeying with up to 20 people.

“I’m journeying with six people at the moment.

“It waxes and wanes. Some people stick with you and other people you work with for 18 months, two years, and then you don’t hear from them.”

The webpage provides an avenue for connecting people seeking support, encouragement and companionship in their faith journey with trained and experienced professionals who offer spiritual direction as a ministry.

It gives access to the profiles of spiritual directors from various traditions enabling enquirers to connect with a companion they discern is a good fit for them.

“Really, (spiritual direction) should just be a regular part of our everyday faith journey, and, again, to choose to engage with someone to accompany you for spiritual direction it doesn’t mean that you’re doing it for the rest of your life,” Ms Robbie said.

“Generally once people start they realise, ‘This is so valuable, I need to keep doing this’.

“It’s for your spiritual growth and wellbeing, really.”

Peter Shakhovskoy sees spiritual direction as “a very rich and valued part of our Catholic and Christian tradition – the art of spiritual accompaniment – and it’s well accepted too in the lives of the saints and the theology of the Church”.

“Through my life I’ve been touched and blessed by a number of wise spiritual guides that I’ve encountered and probably the most significant one of those was (Jesuit) Fr John Drury who was a Toowong parish priest (and) a really wise man in the giving of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, and he took me through (the Exercises) just before he died.

“It was a life-changing encounter.”

Mr Shakhovskoy said having spiritual direction available was a valuable thing in the modern Church.

“It’s really important as we’re challenged in family life and in the number of priests available and lay people asking a lot more questions about their faith that we’ve got people equipped to respond to those sort of conversations and questions,” he said.

“There’s a big hunger, there’s a big hunger in people for spirituality, and lay people are asking a lot of hard questions and I think for all of those reasons spiritual direction’s a really important thing.”

As a spiritual director, Mr Shakhovskoy’s noticed an increase in that hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve had more conversations with people since COVID began; I’ve seen more interest,” he said.

“People have said to me during COVID – (some) who I was talking to, perhaps, monthly – ‘Can I meet with you every week?’

“So that’s been significant.”

Catherine Smith, who trained as a spiritual director when she was involved in prison ministry in Melbourne and now lives on the Gold Coast, said spiritual direction was about “companioning someone through their life’s journey – the ups and downs of life – to be able to listen to where God is in that journey, and the intimacy with which He accompanies each of us”.

“It’s not about providing answers without listening and allowing that person to go deeper into their own spiritual journey,” she said.

To find out more about what spiritual direction is and how you can be supported, especially during these uncertain times, visit the webpage using this link: https://brisbanecatholic.org.au/life/spiritual-direction/

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