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 | By Catholic Spirit Staff

Spiritual Direction: Helping Others Discern God’s Voice

Spiritual direction involves the coming together of a spiritual director and a directee to help the directee develop a closer relationship with God and to better discern how the Holy Spirit is working in their life.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Holy Spirit gives to certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom, faith and discernment for the sake of this common good which is prayer (spiritual direction). Men and women so endowed are true servants of the living tradition of prayer.” (CCC 2690)

In an effort to train more individuals in spiritual direction, the diocesan Institute for Spiritual Direction (ISD) will begin a new class this October at Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center in Temple. The ISD includes 16 weekends of training over a two-year period.

Since 2003, the ISD has trained individuals to serve as spiritual directors in the Diocese of Austin. Holy Cross Brother Joel Giallanza, who led the first formation team, said the initial goal was to form those with strong faith to become competent spiritual directors by teaching them Catholic theology, spirituality and methods of spiritual direction. That goal continues to guide the institute.

Michael Flahive, ISD class of 2013-2016, and Judy Hoelscher, who received her spiritual direction certification from Pecos Benedictine Monastery in 1989, are serving as the 2023-2025 ISD formation team. They hope to continue the tradition of equipping those called to become spiritual directors with the education and skills needed for the ministry.

Flahive said the work of the Holy Spirit is critical to spiritual direction. 

“With our training and experience, we have come to recognize the Holy Spirit as the true director. As we care for others, we find our own spiritual lives are strengthened as well,” he said.

Hoelscher, who has served as a spiritual director for more than 30 years, said she and her peers find joy in being present to people in this ministry.

However, many who come to the institute are challenged when wanting to help ease a person’s pain. Spiritual direction is not about fixing others’ problems but learning how to be with another in their suffering and struggles, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring consolation and wisdom, she said. 

Deacon Michael Glenn of St. John Neumann Parish in Austin said he joined the institute for two reasons. 

“One to continue my own journey of healing and conscience formation. Also, to learn how to more effectively accompany another on their journey,” Deacon Glenn said.

Clyde Gottschalk, a parishioner of St. Luke Parish in Temple, said the training he received through the institute exposed him to the various methods of prayer.

“This training opened new doors to the varied methods of prayer, which demonstrated how I can grow closer to Christ in a more personal and intimate manner through prayer methods that are perhaps more suitable to my personality,” he said. “Another key aspect of the formation process is that I became more attuned to the broad array of human experiences that one might encounter in the practice of spiritual direction. It taught me to expect the unexpected as I walk with another on their spiritual journey.”

Those who attend the Institute for Spiritual Direction are trained in the history of spiritual direction including the study of various spiritualities such as Ignatian, Franciscan and Carmelite. Participants are presented with formational experiences of prayer, mentorship and discernment.

Applications for the 2023-2025 Institute for Spiritual Direction are due by July 30. For more information, contact Cedarbrake Catholic Retreat Center at or (254) 780-2436.