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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Exploring the Relationship between Psychology and Spiritual Growth
IPS seminar brings participants together from a wide range of backgrounds, sheds new light on a fascinating topic.

ips course
The participants in the IPS pastoral seminar on spirituality and psychology.

August 16, 2010. Arlington, VA. Participants from around the globe gathered at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center in Bethesda, MD the first week of August to hear and exchange ideas on the interplay between spirituality and psychology in ministry. 

The fourth annual Pastoral Seminar, "Psychology at the Service of Spiritual Growth," was sponsored by The Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS), a Catholic graduate school of psychology.  IPS Adjunct Professor Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R. led the daily talks, with evening talks given by IPS Professor Paul Vitz, Ph.D.

Priests, religious, therapists, and laity attended the course, including a medical student from the Mayo Clinic and a husband and wife team who work in the Canadian prison system. Several priests participating in the conference were seminary directors of formation and came from such diverse locations as the Philippines, Trinidad, Cameroon and Uganda.

Spiritual directors for individuals and communities were concerned with identifying issues that are beyond the scope of spirituality, requiring attention from a psychological professional. Conversely, therapists were concerned with the limits of therapy and medications, eager to integrate the resources of spirituality and grace.

Noted author, psychologist, television host and co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR), Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., Ed.D., covered 12 sessions during the 3-day seminar. Topics ranged from an overview of personality disorders to practical ways to grow spiritually.

Dr. Paul Vitz of IPS and Professor Emeritus at New York University, rounded out the conference with three lectures on areas of particular concern in today’s culture. The first talk centered on the psychology of hatred and forgiveness, followed by a talk on the importance of fatherhood.  The final talk focused on the rise of addictions and the devastating consequences they cause to individuals, families and society.

Participants Reflect on the Course

Chad Kritzberger, a 4th-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota came because, “There is a lot of psychology that takes place in the field of medicine. Particularly among patients who are struggling with illness, suffering, and dying. And I feel as though spirituality and religious background are integral to helping patients get through their suffering.”

He added, “Dr. Vitz said something that I continue to think about: There are psychological problems that do not have psychological answers; rather they have spiritual answers.  That has played out in my experience in which I have seen individuals struggle with severe psychological issues that ultimately require the Catholic faith to provide hope and give meaning to their struggles.”

Fr. Benedict D. O´Cinnsealaigh of the Cincinnati seminary offered, “For me the most important element is having access to a Psychological Institute that understands and promotes a Catholic vision of anthropology and the nature of the human person from the perspective of intellectual and psychological integrity, while the professors are personally convinced and committed to the Catholic faith. As a seminary formation director, I can trust the insight and advice of the IPS.”

Fr. John Shimotsu, a convert of Japanese descent and now a Navy Chaplain stationed at Virginia Beach said, “They had some great presenters here. As a Navy Chaplain we do a lot of counseling, with sailors and marines and sometimes with their spouses. I think a lot of advances have been made in this field and there are meeting points between the two; psychology seems to be much more open to the insights of spirituality. This in an update from the pastoral psychology course I had in the seminary. I’ve been encouraged by the variety of participants…priests from seminaries, school counselors, a doctor, people in the prison system.”

Sr. Olga of the Eucharist, who runs campus ministry at Boston University, attended because, “Working with college kids for all these years and especially here in a different culture, I felt I needed to learn more about the pastoral connection between spiritual direction and psychology.” Specifically, “A lot of women struggle with self-esteem and other psychological issues…They have not accepted that they are made in the image of God, so being here at the pastoral seminar has been really helpful because we are not only taking the psychological perspective but also from a faith background.”

Each year IPS hosts the Summer Pastoral Seminar.  For more information, please contact IPS Coordinator Nancy Flynn at 703.416.1441 x.127 or



Related links web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College

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