The Jesuit Province Of Vietnam
The Department Of Spirituality – The Center Of Ignatian Spirituality
A Training Program In Spiritual Accompaniment And Giving Spiritual Exercises
The Foundation Of The Program
The Starting Point
Based on the Letter of Approval of father Provincial on May 3, 2019, and the empowerment of the Department of Spirituality of the Jesuit Province of Vietnam, the Center of Ignatian Spirituality is in charge of organizing and launching a Training Program in Spiritual Accompaniment and Giving Spiritual Exercises.
The term “spiritual accompaniment” might be new to some. Up to the recent past, “spiritual direction” was most often used to describe the ministry in which one person would assist another in becoming attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit within them and how best to respond to these movements. In Ignatian spirituality, and in other valued ways of spiritual development, this relationship requires the presence of three persons: the one seeking assistance, the one offering assistance and God, most often referred to as the Holy Spirit.
In the 15th Annotation of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius writes that the true guide – the director – of the person seeking assistance in prayer is actually the Holy Spirit. Jesuits and other religious leaders are taking this long-standing fact to heart. We know that in every language words matter. (If the Holy Spirit is the Director, the other helping person assists or accompanies they do not direct.) Across the Ignatian world has become more common to refer to the ministry of assisting another in their spiritual life as an accompanier, not a director. (The Holy Spirit has that task!) Hence, in keeping with a more contemporary interpretation of this critical ministry, the CIS is launching a Training Program in Spiritual Accompaniment and Giving Spiritual Exercises.
To understand better the background and purpose of the Program in Leadership for Spiritual Accompaniment it may help to be familiar with how CIS views and interprets spirituality and those assisting others in their spiritual journeys. We offer you the following paragraphs as guides to assist you in knowing more fully the theological and spiritual orientation of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality.
The Theological And Spiritual Orientation:
What Is Spirituality?
Spirituality is something intimate & personal. It usually comes to us through our families, traditions and experiences. It reflects our deepest beliefs and values. It affects our relationships with ourselves, other people, the natural world and God. Spirituality is a process of growth toward personal authenticity in relation to myself, others and God. Thus, it is trinitarian in nature.
Our spirituality is something we bring to our personal & professional lives including your work, the people we live with & the wider environment around us. Spirituality is how we live.
The spiritual life is not a life after or beyond our everyday existence. No, the spiritual life can only be real when it is lived in the midst of the pains, joys and boredom of the here-and-now world as we experience it.
“Authentic spirituality is verified by a down-to-earth love of neighbor.” (Theresa of Avila)
Spirituality is wider than any one religion or belief system. It represents what is at the core of a reflective person’s life. Within the Christian context, there are traditions that can help us toward deepening our relationship with God, other people and ourselves. Some of these spiritual guides can be found in
⮚ the Desert Fathers and Mothers
⮚ the Benedictine tradition
⮚ the Carmelite tradition in Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross
⮚ the Jesuit Way of St. Ignatius Loyola
The Spirituality Of St. Ignatius Loyola
The spiritual tradition of Ignatius of Loyola – as expressed in his Spiritual Exercises – wants to help people to get to inner freedom so that they can choose their lives accordingly to God’s invitation and to service others. The Spiritual Exercises serves as a way for people to live more authentically in relationship to Jesus of Nazareth and to get rid of ways of thinking or behaviors that keep them in some form of bondage. Thus, the Ignatian tradition is placed in the context of one’s freedom to grow into a fuller human life that reflects the values of the Risen Jesus Christ.
The primary focus of the Ignatian tradition is one’s personal prayer experience and one’s relationship with God, others and one’s self. The main point for Ignatius is that God is active and available to people who develop the proper attitudes of self-awareness, ability to speak about their experience and a willingness to let God enter into their lives (SE 15). Thru “four weeks” – actually four movements – Ignatius’ Exercises lead a person to own their human experience, develop a closer friendship with the Risen Christ, and are committed to living in ways that help the Kingdom of God become more real in everyday life. The end of the Exercises is a felt awareness that a man or woman is actively invited by God into God’s healing activity in the world.
What Is Spiritual Accompaniment In The Ignatian Tradition?
Spiritual accompaniment is a relationship in which mature people can tell their personal stories to another human being in a safe, supportive environment, and to explore where and how their faith lives intersect with their daily personal experience. Within all Christian spiritual traditions, there are three individuals who interact with one another: the person, the one who accompanies them, and the Holy Spirit. This fact is critically important within the Ignatian tradition since Ignatius makes reference to each of these individuals throughout the Spiritual Exercises.
The spiritual accompanier should have professional training and personal balance in the areas of Sacred Scripture, the Christian spiritual traditions, and psychology. One does not need to be a scripture scholar, but one should be familiar with the Word of God in the meaning and pattern of both the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. It is essential to know the scriptural context and the exegetical techniques for interpreting the Word of God in the contemporary world.
Having knowledge and broad awareness of the richness of the Ignatian tradition allows directors to be less narrow and haste in making judgments or suggestions. It also prevents accompaniers from imposing their own personal piety or experiences on another person. Rather, they are able to adapt to legitimate and practical needs of the person, and to what works best for them.
Sound psychological knowledge is essential because it allows the accompanier to understand the process of human development and maturation in both men and women. It also helps the accompanier to know when to refer a person to a more competent counselor rather than using inadequate piety or pop-psychology to handle more serious problems. The Ignatian spiritual accompanier needs to have sound training in each of these areas and proven professional experience before taking on the ministry of spiritual direction.
Self-awareness is critically informant for spiritual accompaniers. They need to be in tune with their own prayer, relationships to other people and to God, and the movements of the Spirit within them. Accompaniers who are not aware of their own prayer life or the inner working of the Spirit in their lives cannot help others effectively. A good spiritual accompanier will seek personal supervision as well as on-going spiritual direction for him or herself. Being a priest or religious does not prepare someone to serve adequately as a spiritual accompanier. The ministry of spiritual
accompaniment requires professional training and ongoing learning.
Lastly, a skill for the accompanier to have is hospitality, the ability to welcome another into a safe space that elicits trust. Furthermore, knowing oneself, having an honest sense of one’s own competence and limits helps the director in accompanying others in a journey of faith.
The Launch Of The Program:
Goals And Requirements Of The Program
In response to a growing demand for well-trained ministers who can professionally accompany others seeking to deepen their spiritual life in diocesan seminaries and in many religious congregations in Vietnam, the Center for Ignatian Spiritualty is redesigning and launching the Training Program in Spiritual Accompaniment and Giving Spiritual Exercises. The graduates of this program are expeced to accompany people in their spiritual life, and to give short retreats (from 3 to 8 days) as a helpful way of doing this ministry.
Since its inauguration (September 2019), CIS has been taking much effort to assure that all of its courses, seminars and activities are qualified due to its well-trained instructors and professors. Of course, the Training Program in Spiritual Accompaniment and Giving Spiritual Exercises will also have to fit those standards. Likewise, due to academic and practical demands of the program, all of its participants must meet these following requirements:
Requirements For Participant
- Age: from 38 to 55 years old (there can be exception for some special cases)
- Educational Background (optional): Participants are required to have completed four years of university and ability to read/listening English.
- Intellectual competency: having a basic knowledge on the Scripture, Theology of Spirituality and Christology; and willing to enroll in auxiliary courses if necessary.
- Spiritual life: having a personal relationship with God, continuously nourished by spiritual activities, especially personal praying and examination of conscience, with a strong desire to find God in all things.
- Number of participants: maximum at 18 people (ideally, half-men and half-women) for each school year.
- Time: The program is full-time with two-semesters and a shorter summer session. Participants are expected to attend all program classes, training sessions and functions over the course of one year. The program lasts approximately 7 months (from the beginning of September to the beginning of May in the following year, except for the holiday on Christmas and Lunar New Year). The date of the beginning and the end of each school year will be announced in advance.
- Consultation: Throughout the program, each participant is required to engage with a trained spiritual accompanier for their own personal growth.
- Certificate: At the end of the program, a successful participant will receive a CIS graduation diploma indicating the successful completion of the Program.
- For each kind of participants:
- Priests: A formal letter of approval aof the approval and recommendation from their bishop are required. This letter must state that the bishop is aware that the priest is prearing for a particular ministry which will be at the service of the diocese.
- Religious men and women: Those need to have a letter of approval of application and recommendation from their major superior. This letter must state that the superior is aware that the applicant is prearing for a particular ministry which will be at the service of the congregation and its ministries.
- The laity: Their application will be checked by the director of CIS.
- Application documents in addition to letters required above.
- A handwriting letter seeking participating the Training Program in Spiritual Accompaniment and Giving Spiritual Exercises.
- An application form (the sample can be assessed at Register Form
- A personal sharing (1 A4 page, single-space) on “Yourself, your vocation, and your desire of an apostolate life”
- ID pictures (4×6 cm) taken not more than a year before the day of application. (This can be done later in the program with the help of CIS facilitators)
- There is one subject per day, given by professor or instructor in 4 sessions for the whole morning. Participant is expected to spend three (3) additional hours each day on personal reading, homework, group assignments and discussion.
- Spiritual Exercises: Before the program, all participants are required to have experienced the full Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (30 days) guided by a Jesuit approved by CIS. At the end of the program, there will be an 8- day retreat for all participants.
The First Semester
- The Phases of Human Development Across the Life Cycle
This course examines the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual development of the human person throughout the lifespan. It considers life phases from infancy, childhood, and adolescence to adulthood and old age.
- Counseling Psychology (1): The Helping Process as a Pastoral Ministry
An exploration of the psychological perspectives that help us to understand and maintain emotional and mental health. As one understands and improves their general mental and emotional health, their ability to enter into healthy relationships with others and with God improves. This is an example of what St. Thomas Aquinas refers to as “grace builds on nature.” Conversely, where there are issues in personal development that impede psychological well-being, they have negative effects on one’s mental and spiritual development. This course helps participants to understand the links between the emotional and the spiritual dimensions of human experience.
- “The Christian Spirituality of Ignatius Loyola.”
Using the Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola and the text of the Spiritual Exercises, participants explore the events in the life of Ignatius of Loyola, God’s interaction in his life and ways in which he codified his experiences into a model for others to follow within the context of their own lives.
- Service Learning (1)
Participants are required to offer a minimum of six hours per-week at an approved center serving people in need. They will be coached in their service by a mentor at the service site. A personal journal of the experience is required.
Mini-Tri-Mester Course Between Christmas And Lunar New Year Holiday
- The courses that emphasize the theory and practice of counseling skills such as attentive listening, Unconditional Positive Regard, mirroring and labeling.
- Fundamental Professional Behavior expressed in Canon Law and Civil Law applied to those involved in the helping ministries. The case study method will be employed.
- Seminars: will be annually provided according to each kind of participants: priests, seminarians, religious men and women; Catholic families, student…
The Second Semester
- Discernment and spiritual accompaniment with the Bible as a source of spiritual accompaniment, together with psychological foundation.
The invitation and response between God and human persons within the context of the Bible will form the foundation of this course. This course looks at areas of importance such as call, journey, justice, suffering and healing within the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. Participants will be expected to be familiar with the Word of God so they may suggest to others where to locate mportant themes relevant to their lives and spiritual development. One must be familiar with the scriptural context and the exegetical techniques for interpreting the Word of God in the contemporary world.
- Counseling Psychology (2): The Helping Process as a Pastoral Ministry
This course is a continuation of Counseling Psychology (1) above. Emphasis will be on issues commonly encountered in the accompanying relationships such as authority, sexuality, addictions and anti-social behaviors.
- The Practice of Spiritual Accompaniment
Each participant will be assigned persons seeking spiritual accompaniment. To aid in the process of professional growth, there will be weekly case conferences and group supervision let by CIS staff.
- Service Learning (2) Continuation of Service Learning (1) in the same location as first semester, or at new approved location.
- Retreat: Before graduation each participant is expected to attend an Ignatian eight-day personally directed retreat (one-on-one) under the accompaniment of an approved person or retreat center.
- On-going Formation: there will be an annual program for all alumni. The instructor, topic, venue, time will be announced in CIS website.
1. For the retreats:
230,000 VND per day. This tuition covers instructor’s compensation, printed course materials and other administrative expenses.
2. For courses and consultation: 75,000 VND per hour. This tuition covers:
a. Instructor’s compensation (including 4 hours in class and 3 sessions of consultation per day)
b. The handouts distributed in class. (participants have to pay separately for any other kind of books that is recommended in class)
c. Practicum and Supervisor’s compensation
d. Facility management: in the present and in the future.
3. The schedule for school year 2020-2021:
a. The course will begin on September 5, 2020, and end in April, 2021.
b. The course includes:
i. Attendance at all classes and participation in all assigned programs.
ii. A minimum of 100 hour of practicum and approximately 10 hours of consultation with one’s supervisor.
- Class: at the Center of Ignatian Spirituality, 171 Ly Chinh Thang Street, District 3, HCM City.
- Spiritual Exercises: at the Jesuit Retreat House in Ngu Phuc Parish, Ho Nai Town, Dong Nai Province.
- Practicum: At the end of the program, CIS will discuss with each participant to find a suitable place for apprenticeship in accordance with his or her future ministry.
- Nguyen Duc Hanh SJ, MA, MA
- Pham Trung Hung SJ. STD
- Nguyen Van Loc SJ, STL
- Pham Thanh Liem SJ, STL
- Hoang Minh To Nga, Ph.D
- Tran Si Nghi SJ, STL
May God bless our program and bless us all!
Sai Gon, 13/07/2020
Fr. Dominic Nguyen Duc Hanh, S.J.
Director, The Center for Ignatian Spirituality