Photos are of Judy and husband, Bill, and Judy with granddaughters.
When you think of a Regnum Christi member you could well think first of someone on a mission.
Regnum Christi and apostolate got together. Apostolate can be a Regnum Christi program like Challenge, Conquest, ECYD, Camps, and Missions. Apostolate can be something the Regnum Christi member does to serve others in the Church and community, always reflecting the Regnum Christi spirituality.
Judy Guilfoil is a prime example. She, along with husband Bill–and Arlene and John Gannon–founded Pinecrest Academy in Atlanta and help launch Regnum Christi in that city.
In her 18 years of direct involvement with Pinecrest, Judy filled various roles in addition to founder, including admissions director and guidance counselor. Those roles involved direct, apostolic, hard work. And they produced unforgettable moments of inspiration.
“When I did admissions it was an opportunity do show love to others. We had visitors for an hour of presentation and tour and you can do a lot of loving in an hour,” Judy explains. “The tour always ended in the chapel. And there is one dad I especially remember.
“He said he was an atheist and just there for his wife. He had never been in a chapel, so I explained the various parts and why we make the Sign of the Cross and use holy water. He sat down in a pew and asked if he could stay when it was time for me to leave.
“God’s work is so mysterious. That man’s children ended up attending Pinecrest and several years later he came into the Church.”
You might think the credit for that new member of Christ’s Church should go to Judy’s skill as an admissions director–and certainly that was a factor. But Judy would give God and credit and suggests that her role was founded in spiritual direction.
Regnum Christi has five dimensions – and the first dimension of the life of a Regnum Christi Member is the spiritual life. The core of a member’s life is to know Christ’s love, love Him deeply and share that love with others. Closely related is the fifth dimension: personal accompaniment. A key element of this accompaniment is spiritual direction (sometimes called spiritual guidance).
Spiritual direction has been part of Christianity from the start. Paul was a mentor–a spiritual guide–to Timothy and Titus. John the Evangelist tutored Polycarp. And if you think about it, what was Jesus if not the spiritual director to the 12 apostles?
In addition to his famous spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius was a proponent of spiritual direction. The Jesuit description of spiritual direction is fairly simple:
- Spiritual direction focuses on religious experience. It is concerned with a person’s actual experience of a relationship with God.
- Spiritual direction is about a relationship. The religious experience is not isolated, nor does it consist of extraordinary events. It is what happens in an ongoing relationship between the person and God. Most often this is a relationship that is experienced in prayer.
- Spiritual direction is a relationship that is going somewhere. God is leading the person to deeper faith and more generous service. The spiritual director asks not just “what is happening?” but “what is moving forward?”
- The real spiritual director is God. God touches the human heart directly. The human spiritual director does not “direct” in the sense of giving advice and solving problems. Rather, the director helps a person respond to God’s invitation to a deeper relationship.
For Judy Guilfoil, spiritual direction is an essential part of accompaniment in Regnum Christi. It is an apostolate she has been involved in since very early in her time with Regnum Christi. And she says she has benefited both from giving and receiving spiritual direction.
“What I have received from my spiritual directors has helped me to process what I hear and help others discern what is truly from God…and it has helped me to do the same in my own life,” Judy says. “It is a beautiful thing to have someone accompany me–and for me to be able to accompany others.
“It influenced everything I did at the school, even in giving me the ability to listen to others and accompany people at work. The longer I worked at the school the more I came to believe the most important aspect of the job was my technical expertise but how well I would connect with people, loving them and sharing Christ with them.
“Lots of the people I’ve guided are extremely holy people. So I’m learning from them as I accompany them. It really is a blessing for me and I pray for them.”
Judy grew up in a large Catholic family in a small house in Fish Bay, Wisconsin. She recalls her parents as great role models. They weren’t heavy-handed about the faith and didn’t talk about it much. They simply lived their faith by example. Anyone who know Judy will attest to the power of her own example as wife, mother, and Regnum Christi member.
And while Regnum Christi certainly didn’t invent spiritual direction, it is doing something about it. (In addition to the vast wealth of spiritual materials provided for free at the RCSpirituality Center.
Divine Mercy University (DMU) and Regnum Christi of North America are partnering to address the pressing need for spiritual directors in the life of the Church and the world. The Spiritual Direction Certificate (SDC) Program began in January 2019 and available online for enrolled students.
The SDC Program is designed to provide the knowledge, skills, and supervision for future spiritual directors. The program seeks to respond to the ongoing need for followers of Jesus Christ to assist others on their path of hearing the Lord’s ongoing call in their lives and becoming ever more His faithful disciples.
Program Director Fr. Robert Presutti, LC notes: “Pope Benedict stated it beautifully when he reminded us that the Church continues to recommend spiritual direction to every all Christians who wish to live their Baptism. That means that Spiritual Direction should be a part of every Christian’s life! For his part, Pope Francis reiterates the need for Christians who personally accompany others on the path of the Gospel, which is precisely what spiritual direction accomplishes.”
The DMU program is to serve the Church, not just Regnum Christi. But as Judy Guilfoil explains, spiritual direction is vital to Regnum Christi.
“At the heart of what Regnum Christi does is forming apostles. And an apostle must have a growing relationship with Christ to be effective in the mission. This forms the foundation for everything in Regnum Christi – the relationship with Christ is what moves the apostle to act.”