First class of mentors will complete their training in January
by Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Two years ago, Mike Scherschligt, executive director of the School of Faith, said that “one of Archbishop Naumann’s dreams is that every person has a spiritual mentor.”
This coming January, the archbishop’s dream will begin to come true as 64 participants in the Spiritual Mentorship Program complete their training to serve as guides and companions to others on their journey to holiness.
This is the first group to complete the two-year course designed and co- directed by the School of Faith and the Apostles of the Interior Life, an association of the faithful whose apostolate’s goal is interior formation and spiritual assistance.
Sister Debbie Li, who describes herself as “the one in the background organizing everything,” is beyond pleased with the results of this initial run.
“After the first session, one of the signs that let us know the Holy Spirit was present and tangible was the unity that was created,” she said.
The unity grew so strong in the following sessions that when participants finally complete their training, the success will be bittersweet.
“I guess I speak for all the Apostles of the Interior Life,” said Sister Debbie. “It has completely exceeded our expectations.
“What really struck me was the disproportion of the fruit from the effort. And so that’s a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is in charge.”
Participants were equally pleased.
“This group of people is really good at developing this program and then carrying it out,” said Holy Trinity parishioner Gordon Moffitt. “They’re very knowledgeable, very faith-filled people dedicated to evangelizing.”
The value of his training became clear to Moffitt during a visit to Rome this summer when he heard Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, speak about three things essential for salvation.
“The first one was, you’ve got to have a prayer life,” said Moffitt. “The second was, you have to know your faith. And the third was, you have to be able to witness.
“And that’s basically what this program is all about.”
When Moffitt applied to the program two years ago, he hoped it would take him to another level spiritually. After his third session, he realized God’s plan was much greater.
“I feel like I’ve been taken two or three levels up,” he said. “Through this program, God has transformed me into someone I never thought I could be.”
“It helped form us all in our faith — to know what our faith really is, the whole truth, and to be able to practice it and witness it.”
“And that basically comes through prayer life,” he added. “That’s where you receive your awareness. It’s just a huge part of anybody’s salvation.”
In this last phase of the program, the spiritual mentors have had the opportunity to take mentees under their wings for a trial period.
“It gives us a way to kind of monitor what they’re doing and give them some experience before we kind of throw them into the world,” said Sister Debbie.
Anonymous feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. And mentors are feeling well-trained for their mission.
“We’re not wanting to share our opinions,” said Moffitt. “We’re wanting to share what God wants us to share — the truth. And that’s a big responsibility.
“We’re to guide [those we mentor] to find their own answers through their prayer life. Because God will answer them if they take the time to talk to him and listen.”
It’s up to each spiritual mentor to determine how many people they are able to mentor responsibly, depending on work schedule and family commitments.
“All who go through the program have a spiritual director themselves,” said Sister Debbie. “So before they take on commitments, we advise them to discern with their spiritual director.”
The hope is that the spiritual mentoring relationships will be ongoing.
“We encourage meeting that person every four to five weeks,” said Sister Debbie, “so you’re seeing each other every month.”
Because the relationship is intended to be ongoing, many more mentors are needed to realize the archbishop’s dream. A new mentorship program will begin next May; applications are now available and will be taken through the first of the year (see sidebar).
Coordinators are hoping to fill Savior Pastoral Center with participants in the next program.
“And we would increase the team in proportion to the applicants we get,” said Sister Debbie
The program is recommended to anyone who wants to grow in his or her relationship with Christ and help others do the same.
“Whether you’re a mother or a father or anyone really,” said Sister Debbie, “you’ll find people in your life who come up to you and question you about your faith.”
“It’s sort of a calling, too,” said Moffitt, who acknowledges the program requires a commitment of time and effort, but is worth it.
“If I have time for nothing else,” he said, “it should be for God.
“And if God’s calling me, then that’s his time.”
Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program
The next spiritual mentorship program will begin in May 2013. Applications are being accepted now, and slots are filling quickly.
The program, co-directed by the School of Faith (www.schooloffaith.com) and the Apostles of the Interior Life (www.apostlesofil.org) is a two-year course of study that combines eight distance-learning courses with four, one-week intensive in-residence sessions at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.
The program is designed for Catholics who have a desire to develop a deep prayer and sacramental life, to increase their knowledge of the Catholic faith, to grow in the virtues and to help others do the same.
The program’s intent is to develop spiritual mentors who will be trained to help guide and assist others in the spiritual life. The cost of the program is $1500 per component or $6000 in total (which includes the room and board costs during the in-residence sessions).
Because co-directors and the archbishop believe spiritual mentorship belongs to the universal church, 30 percent of applications for the next program will be reserved for participants from dioceses nationwide.
For more information, visit the website at: www.schooloffaith.com and click on the icon for “spiritual mentorship program.”
Applications will be accepted through Jan. 1, 2013.