Becoming a Spiritual Companion

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Spiritual Direction was the term St. Ignatius of Loyola used to companion someone on their spiritual journey. Today there are various terms used such as Spiritual Guidance or Spiritual Companioning. Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center has sponsored a training program since 2009 for people who feel called to this ministry.

The Spiritual Companion Program meets for a year and a half, gathering every other month, giving time in-between for reflection, reading and written assignments. The classes help people to discern whether God is calling them to this ministry.  As of February 2019 fifty-six people from various denominations have graduated from the program. The next program begins August 23, 2019.

Not all people begin a formal practice, but they are able to use their skills in many ways. For example, one person is the director of New Leaf, a program that provides mentoring for children whose parent is incarcerated. Two others use their skills for prison ministry. Another has used her gifts for working with people with memory loss.

Here is what some of the recent graduates have to say about the Spiritual Companion Program. Jennie Peyton states that the program has been a blessing to her. “It has provided highly valued tools to prepare me in whatever way God may be calling. It has greatly enhanced my receptivity to God in prayer and awareness of God’s promptings.  This program has enabled me to be more aware of my preconceived notions and helped me to be open to where others are coming from, to discover God is at work in their lives, and to trust the Spirit to guide my response.”

Sister Cathy Schwemer, PHJC states;  “I came to this program as an experienced spiritual director, however it had been some time since I practiced.  My decision to attend was to help update and sharpen my skills. That is one of the strengths of the program, whether you are experienced or a novice to spiritual companionship you’ll find that as you enter into the study and practice of companionship with others, it is a place where God speaks to you anew.”

Joanne Hayden comments: “In learning aspects of spiritual companionship, there are opportunities to review one’s own personal relationship with God and opportunities for sharing the sacredness of spirituality with like-minded people.”

Sister Connie Bach, PHJC exclaims: “I have appreciated delving more deeply into my own spiritual journey through reading, writing, as well as  learning from others and from class assignments, I’ve learned about other traditions of the Christian faith and my own practice of contemplative prayer. I have come to enjoy practicing one-on-one and group companioning as well as sharing joys and sorrows of others in our group. I have been more aware of God’s presence in the mystery of others.”

Pastor David Fleener shares:  “One might think that all clergy have received extensive education in Spiritual Companioning. After all, seminary covers just about everything else! But few of us have received training in facilitating someone’s connection to the Holy Spirit on a deep, personal level.  This was true for me. I received a wonderful seminary education-how to preach, lead worship, interpret Scripture and my church’s theological tradition, visit the sick and the homebound, comfort the grieving, teach the Christian faith to all ages, and administer a congregation.  I even added an extra year of Clinical Pastoral Education in a hospital to supplement my skills in caring for people in distress. However, it wasn’t until I became part of this program that I began to develop skills in helping people develop their faith apart from reliance on doctrine. This program will help you meet people where they are. Another strength of this program is belonging to an ecumenical colleague group.”

Kathy Light a graduate of our first group and a co-facilitator for the VI group states:  “I was seeking a spiritual direction/companionship program for my own spiritual growth as well as for preparation for a ministry I was feeling called to. I was very pleased when I received a phone call that Lindenwood was ready to offer such a program. I had a trusting relationship with Lindenwood, so took the plunge and enrolled. I have never regretted that decision. This class was a time of enriching spiritual growth personally and I felt certain I was learning skills to offer in my ministry.  Since my completion in 2009, I have been privileged to accompany quite a few individuals during times of change in their lives. Such an experience is always an honor and gift I treasure.”

So, if you feel called to be a spiritual companion, this program might be for you. The next program will begin on August 23, 2019 with registration completed by July 31. Information is available on the Lindenwood Retreat and Conference Center website or by calling Sister Joetta Huelsmann, PHJC at 765-499-1975. Partial scholarships are also available.