Regnum Christi | Legionaries of Christ

Spiritual Director Formation: A Journey Towards Freedom

Teresa Chabot, of Kalispell, Montana, has been a member of Regnum Christi for 25 years, during which time she has served in several different positions, including team leader, formation coordinator, and section director. One of the roles through which Teresa has grown the most, however, is through her role as a spiritual director. Teresa recently graduated from the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University in May of 2021, and over the course of the program, she not only developed and improved her skills and understanding of the role of the spiritual director, but also grew in her self-knowledge and spiritual freedom.

For Teresa, who was already providing spiritual direction before participating in the SDC program, the course prompted what Teresa calls “a total paradigm shift” in her thought processes and in her approach as a spiritual director. As a mother of four children, and grandmother of ten, it was natural for Teresa to carry her experience as a mother and caretaker into her role as a spiritual guide. But through her spiritual direction education at DMU, Teresa began to understand that her original view of her relationship with her directees – as mother, teacher, and formator – was, in fact, not what God was calling her to in her role as spiritual director. “I used to understand spiritual direction as more formation – I was the teacher, and they were the student, and if they would just listen and learn, they would grow closer to God,” says Teresa. “But this approach played into my perfectionism and desire to be the ‘savior,’ rather than allowing Christ to save, and allowing for the integrity of the heart or voice of the Holy Spirit. I felt totally responsible for not only my failing, but also the directee’s failings as well.” 

As she progressed through the spiritual direction program, through the module lessons, journaling assignments, residencies, and supervision, Teresa began to expand her understanding of the role of the spiritual director; she now knows that the most important job she has as a spiritual director is not to solve her directees’ problems, give them advice, or achieve a particular result, but to create a sacred space in which the Holy Spirit can penetrate the heart of her directees, and lead them into spiritual maturity. “I experienced such freedom when the Holy Spirit relieved me of the mother/teacher role with my directees,” says Teresa. “Spiritual direction is the Holy Spirit’s work, and I am just a facilitator. It doesn’t all depend on me.”

Another lesson Teresa learned through her spiritual direction formation at DMU was the value of listening, and how to do it well. For Teresa, speaking less and listening more has become a divine activity and an act of humility, patience, and self-emptying. “Being able to help another create sacred space for God to work in their soul by listening with and experiencing with them creates tremendous freedom and is a great gift,” says Teresa. “I am here to listen with the directee by reflecting back to them what I hear, and experience with them by exploring and expanding their feelings.” Through her formation and experience, Teresa has learned to listen to not just the words that a directee says, but also the feelings that accompany her words, which are an indication of the direction to which the Holy Spirit is leading her.

This act of listening helped Teresa to understand that each one of the women she accompanies through the ministry of spiritual direction is being called to her own path, and to her own unique relationship with God.  “The more I am able to practice patience and to accompany each person on her unique journey, led by the Holy Spirit, the more I am able to witness the miracle of her spiritual growth,” says Teresa.

Teresa shares one recent example of how the ministry of listening allowed her to be witness to God as he revealed himself and his will to one of her directees. “In one instance, I was able to sit with a woman as she explored the reasons for her struggles at work,” says Teresa. “I just listened as the Holy Spirit guided her to the realization that the reason for her struggle was grounded in her need and desire to return to the sacraments after the COVID break. What a gift to be that witness!”

For Teresa, her spiritual direction formation was more than an education pursued, a certificate earned, or a goal accomplished: it was a journey of self-examination, self-discovery, growth, and, ultimately, freedom. “I am so very grateful for the experience to learn new skills that allow me to help move spiritual direction to a greater depth for the directee, but in my personal life, I have also become less afraid to dig into those deeper reasons that might be blocking my own relationship with the Lord and with members of my family,” says Teresa. “As I place these issues at the foot of the cross, I have found healing and peace and a stronger prayer life. The greatest take-away for me was a freedom that can only be a gift from God.”  

Teresa lives in Kalispell, Montana, with her husband, Geoff, to whom she’s been married for 52 years, and her Regnum Christi team is part of the Pacific Northwest Section. Presently, she accompanies approximately ten women in spiritual direction, whom she meets with online and in person. She is also the administrative assistant for RC Spiritual Online Classroom and facilitator for one of the Spiritual Direction Supervision groups.

In January of 2019, Regnum Christi partnered with Divine Mercy University to create the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program, an online program that provides the knowledge, disposition, skills, and supervision that are key to becoming agents for Christian transformation and accompaniment, and within the first two years, there have been over one hundred people associated with Regnum Christi enrolled in the program. To find more about the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University, visit their website at sdc-divinemercy.org.

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