Spiritual mentors help’s Catholic’s deepen their faith

by Kara Hansen

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The archdiocese is in need of a few good men and women.

The mission? Become spiritual mentors to help other Catholics grow in their relationship with Christ.

“We realized we are limited and can only reach a few people to help them become the saints they are called to be,” said Sister Susan Pieper, superior of the Apostles of the Interior Life. “We thought it would be good to help form people to help others deepen their relationship with God.”

The charism of the Apostles of the Interior Life is to help care for the human and spiritual formation of people, most often by providing spiritual direction. But Sister Susan said the need for direction vastly outnumbers the Sisters who are able to provide it.

“We’re constantly bombarded with e-mails and calls from people, or people stopping us and asking for help in growing their spiritual life,” said Sister Susan.

At the same time, the instructors of Benedictine College School of Faith, the adult catechesis program in the archdiocese, have seen a significant change in their students since including more spiritual formation with the traditional academic component of their classes.

“Their ability to cooperate with God changed when they picked up the habit of prayer,” said Mike Scher- schligt, executive director of the School of Faith. “We saw a marked difference in the students. They became more generous, more concerned about sharing the faith with others, more willing to do works of mercy, and more open to vocations.” Joining forces with the Apostles of the Interior Life was a natural fit. “They can do the interior formation with some of the intellectual formation and we can do a lot of the intellectual formation with some of the interior formation,” said Scherschligt. “Together, you have the whole package.”

Thus, the AVI Catholic Spiritual Mentorship program was born. Incidentally, the “AVI” in the program’s name comes from how the Apostles of the Interior Life is rendered in Italian: Le Apostole della Vita Interiore.

The program is offered over the course of two years and combines eight distance-learning courses with four one-week intensive sessions. The intensive sessions will be held at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.

The focus of the program is the formation of spiritual mentors who can guide interested Catholics into a deeper faith life.

“The goal is that no one in this diocese would be impoverished interiorly and that they would experience the great wealth of the Holy Spirit in their soul,” said Scherschligt.

Spiritual mentors would not be trained as spiritual directors per se, said Sister Susan.

“Spiritual mentors are in the same category, but they are not spiritual directors,” she said. “They are someone who has been taking care of their spiritual life, following the church teachings, praying — someone who wants to receive formation and help others. It’s someone who wants to take their interior life up a notch and help others do the same.”

Scherschligt said that the minimum requirement for a person to be considered as a candidate for becoming a spiritual mentor is to have received the sacrament of confirmation.

The classes focus on steeping a would-be spiritual mentor in the foundations of faith, prayer, spirituality, the life of Christ, salvation history, theology of the body, and virtue. Classes are broken into four total sessions to make up the entire program. Sister Susan said there would also be a practical component to the classes to help students practice their new role.

“The practicum part of the program will help teach them how to be good listeners, how to listen to the Holy Spirit and help others do the same,” she said.

Cost for each session of the program is $1,500, which includes room and board for the in-residence session and cost for materials. However, Scherschligt said the cost should not prohibit any interested person from pursuing the program.

“We’re working to set up scholarships and we will work with anyone who is interested,” he said.

Once a person completes the program and becomes a spiritual men- tor, he or she would be free to meet with Catholics from their own parish and others on an individual basis to mentor them.

“The spiritual mentor would be able to meet with people in their own parish and others with the permission of their priest, so that a person could share and get advice from a spiritual mentor and talk about how their prayer and sacramental life is going, as well as their quest for virtue,” said Sister Susan.

Sister Susan said those interested in becoming a spiritual mentor with some ministry or theology background already could possibly have some of the educational component waived, but that would be considered on a case-by-case basis. She asked all Catholics to pray for the success of the spiritual mentorship program.

The deadline for applications to the program is Jan. 15, 2011. For more information, send an e-mail to: Cari@SchoolofFaith.com, or call (913) 310-0014.

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