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Questions for a spiritual director

Providence Associate Connie Schnapf is a spiritual director.

Connie Schnapf, a Providence Associate from Newburgh, Ind., sought spiritual direction many years ago because she desired a deeper relationship with God. After much discernment, Connie, who serves as the director of religious education at St. John the Baptist Parish, Newburgh, decided to pursue certification to become a spiritual director herself. For the last four years, she has been providing spiritual direction to others.

Connie and her husband, Joe, live in Newburgh. Joe is self-employed as a vendor. The couple has two grown children. Their daughter, Holly, is married and resides in Cincinnati with her husband, Christian, and their two children, Zachary, 4, and Cecelia, 20 months. Holly is the director of development for a non-profit organization, and Christian teaches psychology at Xavier University. Connie’s son, Marty, lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he works as an artist.

In 1992, Connie received her bachelor’s degree in theology from the Women’s (now Woods) External Degree (WED) program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She later completed her two-year internship program in spiritual direction with the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Ind.

Connie enjoys reading, working in her yard and going for long walks. She also enjoys getting together with friends and being with her family. One of her greatest joys is playing with her grandchildren.

1.) What is spiritual direction?

It is the opportunity to sit with a trusted companion/spiritual director and reflect on your relationship with God. It’s a time to look at your daily life and God’s presence within it. It is a gift that you give to yourself!

2.) Who can be a spiritual director?

I feel a person is called to this ministry. At some point a person or persons may seek you out during certain critical times in their lives, knowing that you are a good listener and can be trusted to keep their confidences. Being told that you would make a good spiritual director is another help in discerning if this ministry would be right for you. Through discernment and prayer, I would encourage anyone who feels drawn to this ministry to seek out a formation program or internship that fits his or her needs.

3.) Did you go through a special program to become a spiritual director?

I completed a two-year internship program in spiritual direction [with the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Ind.] We gathered one weekend a month for two years. During this time we covered a wide range of topics: theology, New Testament, Old Testament, spirituality, psychology, social justice, moral ethics, sacraments, discernment, enneagram, counseling and Myers Briggs. Along with the intellectual knowledge, we balanced the formation by developing the practical people skills needed in relating to others as spiritual directors. We “practiced” these skills over and over each month. We received a certificate of completion at the end of our training.

4.) Do all faith traditions do spiritual direction?

Most faith traditions offer spiritual direction in some form. The process may be different.

5.) Why do you think spiritual direction is more common with the Catholic faith?

I think it is probably because throughout the history of the Catholic Church spiritual direction had been a part of both the monastic and religious community’s spiritual formation. Over time the opportunity has been opened to and encouraged for lay persons wishing to grow deeper in their relationship with God.

6.) How do you differentiate between spiritual direction and counseling?

CounselingSpiritual Direction
Sought for mental, emotional healthEmotional health Sought for growth in one’s spiritual life with God
It is problem centered.It is growth centered.
It is a healer and patient relationship.It is two disciples listening for guidance from the Holy Spirit.
It is mainly information getting.It is not advisory but waiting patiently for the movement of the Holy Spirit.
It addresses a partial aspect of life.It is holistic — addresses the whole person.
Authority is science.Authority is God.
Termination after resolution of problemTermination — stays open
Credit: Jane A. Will, OSB, Psy.D., HSPP

If at any time the spiritual director feels the directee is in need of professional counseling, it is the ethical responsibility of that director to encourage that directee to seek help outside the spiritual direction relationship. A spiritual director does not act as a counselor.

7.) Why did you seek spiritual direction? How did you come to know about spiritual direction? How did you find someone to guide you?

I sought spiritual direction because I wanted to grow spiritually and develop a deeper relationship with God.

I was fortunate in that a person that I already knew was also a spiritual director. She was someone who I felt I could trust and feel comfortable with in sharing my journey.

Spiritual directors are encouraged to continue seeing a director of their own on a regular basis, about once a month for most. The spiritual journey is an on-going process and never finished for anyone.

8.) Do you prefer spiritual director or spiritual guide?

I think the term spiritual “director” is often misunderstood. A spiritual director does not play the role of director but companion. The Spirit in the midst of the relationship is the director. Thus, the name spiritual guide may help people feel more comfortable in its understanding.

9.) What exactly do you do as a spiritual director?

The primary role of the spiritual director is to listen carefully to the directee, as she/he processes what has been happening in her/his daily life. Through the session, the director may encourage, challenge, pray with and seek clarification when needed from the directee. The process helps the directee key in on where God is working in his or her life.

10.) How does a directee compensate a director? Is there a “going rate?”

Compensation varies from director to director. Some directors have a set fee or a sliding scale, depending on the circumstances. Others ask for a free-will offering and still others offer their time with no expectation of anything in return. (from a Spiritual Directors International brochure)

11.) Let’s say a person is interested in finding a spiritual guide. How does one go about finding a guide?

Most all faith traditions offer spiritual direction, but it is sometimes hard to find someone who is right for you. Talking with friends who either go to spiritual direction or have contacts is a good way to begin. Finding out from your church or synagogue personnel if they have a qualified spiritual director may be another. There is Web site that is very useful for those looking for a spiritual director — www.sdiworld.org (Spiritual Directors International). They have a Seek and Find Guide that is most helpful in finding persons in any given area of the country who are qualified spiritual directors. Contact numbers are included.

Like everything else I think there is a right fit. Discovering if a spiritual director is right for you may take two or three visits. If it is a good fit, that is wonderful. If not, you should look further until you find someone with whom you feel comfortable.

12.) What questions would you suggest a person ask a potential spiritual director?

What is her/his experience as a spiritual director? How many years has she/he been in this ministry?
What enrichment, spiritual formation and theological education does she/he have?
Are you more comfortable with someone that is of your faith tradition? It would be important to find this out.
While not a question, it is important to pray for guidance in finding a spiritual director.

13.) How long have you been a spiritual director? How do you share with others this ministry?

I’ve been a spiritual director for four years. Working in a parish setting gives me opportunities to be available to people in and around the parish and diocese. I find that my training as a spiritual director goes beyond the one-on-one setting of the spiritual direction relationship. The skills learned during my formation have been invaluable in interacting with people of all ages on a daily basis. Everyone wants to be truly listened to. How this is done can make all the difference in the world.

14.) Are you a spiritual guide for any religious? How do you respond to those who might think it odd that a layperson could spiritually direct a religious?

I am not a spiritual guide for any religious, but I would not hesitate if asked.

15.) What have you gained from being a spiritual director and/or directee?

I come away from a spiritual direction session in awe at how the Spirit works in our lives. It is an honor and privilege to accompany another person on her/his journey. I sometimes wonder who was the directee and who was the companion. It is very humbling to be a part of another person’s life in this way.

16.) Has being a Providence Associate influenced your decision to become a spiritual director?

I was a spiritual director before I was a Providence Associate. Yet, becoming an associate helped me deepen my understanding of Providence spirituality. The insights from what I have learned, I pass on to those needing help in understanding the “coincidences” that have brought about change in their lives.

17.) What role has Providence played in your life?

Looking back on my life I must say that Providence has been in every aspect of my life. I learned through my own spiritual direction, over the years, to name it as such — which was, and is, major.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. fr. Zachary Bikeri on September 17, 2020 at 2:43 am

    beautiful work in todays world.

  2. Marsha Speth on September 23, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Well stated, Connie! Thank you!

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