Contemplative Formation: The Journey Begins
This all started with a lunch date I had with a friend/coworker (Karen). The days before we met, I found myself thinking, "Ask her about spiritual direction." But I couldn't figure out why I would ask her in particular. When I did, Karen responded, "Funny you should ask. I was just speaking to a Maryknoll Sister who wants to do more spiritual direction." I met with Sister Maureen, who discovered she was too busy to work with someone new just now, but she strongly recommended the Contemplative Formation Program at Mariandale to me (see info here). Five weekends of silence and prayer scattered over eight months, each followed by a meeting with fellow participants after each weekend. I was instantly interested. It sounded like something I had wanted to try for a long, long time. When I heard how expensive it was, I figured it was impossible, but Sister Maureen said, "They have financial aid. Ask them about it." I thought, "Perhaps God is pointing me this way."
I contacted Janet, the woman in charge of the program, and she said they would probably be able to help me with most of the cost and told me to go ahead and apply. The application process was more involved than any other seminar, course or program I have signed up for. I had to write reflections on my personal spiritual life, what interested me about the program, and what I hoped to get out of it. I had to supply two personal references (fortunately, I got two beautiful ones from my priest and from my dear friend and mentor, former lay missioner Jean Walsh). Then I had to go to Mariandale for an interview with two of the people who run the program. After the interview, I felt good, but uncertain. How many people were applying? Did they have to turn some people away? I didn't know.
At the interview, they told me I needed to get a spiritual director (circling back to my lunch with Karen). I went online to see if there were local spiritual directors I could hook up with, but the websites were woefully out of date (directors had moved, some had even passed away). My first thought had been another former lay missioner, Jeanine Boucher-Colbert. I had seen on Facebook that she had received her spiritual direction credentials. She was in one of my first classes of missioners at Maryknoll, and I respected and remembered her fondly, but we hadn't spoken in years. It was a treat just to get in touch with her. She agreed to take me on, and we had a first session (all done by phone, since she lives on the West Coast). I was very happy with our first session, so I hope to continue to get her direction as I go through the program (and perhaps beyond). Years ago, it would have cost me a fortune to talk long-distance for an hour. Thanks, modern technology!
In between setting up the appointment with Jeanine and having our first call, I got the news that I had been accepted into the program! I am excited and looking forward to the process. It's taken me three months to get to this point, and it's another month to the first weekend, but I'm sure it will be worth the wait. I can prepare for what I hope will be a very rewarding experience.
Mary has been very positive all along, and I couldn't do this without her support. I'm taking off days before and after each weekend to make up any time with her. She deserves as much love and attention as I can give her.
I will be keeping you posted as this goes along. If you have any comments, suggestions or wisdom to share, please pass them on to me. I've learned that God chooses any number of ways to speak to me, and I can use your help in listening.