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Along the Journey  |  

Why I Joined the Spiritual Direction Program

Have you considered becoming a spiritual director in the new year?

The Center for Lifelong Learning’s (CLL) certificate program is comprised of four week-long residencies on the CTS campus, and an 18-month supervised practice in the art of spiritual direction. Often called spiritual companioning or spiritual friendship, Spiritual Direction is an intentional relationship between a person seeking spiritual guidance and a trained individual (the spiritual director).

Read about Janet Claussen’s (JC) experience in the interview below.


CLL: What led you to complete the CSD program with Columbia?

JC: Divine intervention.

I had been in an Ignatian CSD program about fifteen years prior, had discerned that it wasn’t the time in my life to continue to pursue my call to be a spiritual director. However, when I retired from full time teaching, and with my four children all launched, I wanted to pick up where I left off and finish the certificate. Meanwhile, someone who had just completed the same Ignatian program suggested to me that Columbia had a fairly new CSD that I might want to explore. After a few conversations with Debra Weir, I went on a silent retreat to discern where God was calling me to “train” for this next phase of my vocation. While out walking during this retreat, I was a bit lost–geographically and spiritually–not sure which way to go. I looked up at the street sign to get my bearings. It read, “Columbia”. Talk about a “sign” from God! Good enough for me. I was anxious and curious to expand my horizons beyond my Roman Catholic tradition. I have never regretted that decision. 


CLL: What aspect of the program has been most beneficial to you as you embrace your vocation or ministry more fully? 

JC: The first year of my previous program had been academic in nature: readings, discussion, prayer, actual “courses” for which we received grades and academic credit. From the first day of Columbia’s CSD, we were broken into one-on-one listening sessions and then groups. The afternoon listening sessions with our peers and leaders was the most beneficial of all the great aspects of the training. It was THIS that distinguished Columbia from my previous attempt at becoming a spiritual director. We were learning to listen from the very beginning, and throughout all the courses. 


CLL: What do you absolutely love about the program?

JC: That it was almost all women! What a delightful change from my lifelong education, conferences, and religious formation that had been in the context of the granddaddy of patriarchy: the Roman Catholic tradition. To be in the presence of so many wise women, most of whom were ordained, was the most awakening and fulfilling part of the program for me. It was a wow!

I absolutely loved all the presenters that we had for each of our four week sessions. The one that surprised me the most was Jim Dant, our Baptist preacher man. I didn’t expect to like him and came into that week with great trepidation. But I was “parabled” by his wisdom, his knowledge, his humor and his theology. And I have to admit that  it was good that we had some male perspective on spiritual direction, too. 

Loved the prayer time, music and spaces–from morning through the afternoon/evening Eucharists. Once again, the Divine Feminine lifted my soul as I participated in liturgy with a group of amazing women presiders. 

So many other aspects that I really liked, too, but too numerous to speak about for this interview


CLL: What was most challenging to you about the program?

JC: Most challenging were the “rules” of how to do spiritual direction. Having been in spiritual direction over thirty years, I had no idea how many “do’s and don’ts” there were! I think I must have touched on most of the “don’ts” during my listening practices at Columbia, but I also know now how important these were in my learning–to be critiqued by, to experience my own time in the “hot seat” and to be a guinea pig and observer of other participants’ practice sessions. I truly appreciated the wisdom and gentleness of the leaders who guided us through the process. 

Verbatims were a necessary pain of the process, but the supervision I had was gentle, affirming, challenging and outstanding. 


CLL: If you could sum up the program in seven words or less, what would you say?

Ouch. This is the hardest question to answer. Does a hyphenated word count as one? LOL. I’ll name two: Spirit-filled experiential  learning that prepared me well and Columbia touches souls so we can touch others. 


CLL: Briefly describe the context and shape of your ministry of spiritual direction.

JC: Since finishing Columbia’s CSD program, I feel privileged and graced to have a few directees under my wing.  No surprise given my lifelong association with the Catholic church, and my passion for women’s issues, all of the people I see on a regular basis are Catholic women in various stages of life and spiritual maturation. But I also find myself using the skills that I learned at Columbia in the small faith communities I lead, and in the everyday conversations with friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers. 

The CSD certificate can be completed in two and a half years. Entrance into the program is by application only. The Certificate in Spiritual Direction (CSD) application deadline is July 1, 2022. Apply now at www.ctsnet.edu/lifelong-learning/certificate-programs/certificate-spiritual-direction/


Along the Journey