Launching in 2019, Divine Mercy University and Regnum Christi are teaming up to respond to the need for spiritual directors in the Church in a new certificate program to help others learn spiritual direction. Fr. Robert Presutti, LC, PhD, is heading the initiative, leading a team of 12 experts in psychology, Catholic spirituality, and spiritual direction. This conversation with Fr. Presutti was originally posted on the Regnum Christi website.
What is the history of training spiritual directors in Regnum Christi? How did you get involved?
Fr. Robert: The great importance of spiritual direction in our lives and for our apostolates is no secret. With the growth of Regnum Christi in North America, it became clear that we needed to expand the opportunities for spiritual direction for our own and for those who benefit from our work. This meant training more spiritual directors or guides. Over the years, various localities made an effort to do so and, most notably, spiritual director courses were organized for the territory at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center in the Washington, DC, metro area. These courses were spearheaded by Fr. John Hopkins and involved the active collaboration of lay and consecrated members and other Legionaries. For years, this program at Bethesda — subsequently replicated in various locations and furthered by the involvement of the RC Spirituality — yielded many good and holy fruits, but it became clear that the opportunity for training needed to extend further. This is where DMU came in.
You mentioned this was a partnership between Divine Mercy and Regnum Christi. How does that partnership work? What does each side provide?
Fr. Robert: DMU has a tradition of developing rigorous academic programs, both onsite and online. Students literally from around the world participate in DMU’s online programs, and DMU has become known in both Catholic and non-Catholic communities. Naturally, the question arose: is there an opportunity to use DMU’s experience to create a globally-accessible spiritual directors program in conjunction with Regnum Christi in North America? The result would meet the need for training spiritual directors not only for Regnum Christi, but for anyone who wanted to explore this ministry. In this partnership, DMU provides the pedagogical and academic expertise and infrastructure, while Regnum Christi provides a charism that deeply informs the program.
How do you think this program can help Regnum Christi members? Why might they get this certificate?
Fr. Robert: This program can help Regnum Christi members in various ways. For those with the call to become spiritual directors, this program will provide the requisite theological background, human skills training, and supervision to begin a fruitful exercise of this ministry or apostolate. For others, some of the courses might become an opportunity for either spiritual deepening or learning human interpersonal skills for apostolates besides spiritual direction.
How might this program compare to other programs out there teaching spiritual direction?
Fr. Robert: This program is fully online, with two four-day residencies. This makes it widely accessible. Additionally, some distinguishing features include the theological content: this program is set very strongly in the wonderful tradition of Catholic Christian spiritual theology from the time of the Fathers of the Church to present day authors, highlighted by those who are recognized as “doctors” of the spiritual life by the Church. A second distinguishing feature is the interpersonal skills training: this program will draw from the DMU experience of teaching solid interpersonal skills for online students, which has yielded good fruit in the clinical programs offered by DMU (such as the online MS in Counseling degree). Thirdly, this program will provide supervision to students as they begin exercising as spiritual directors, toward the middle and end of the program. As one learns supervision, we can say that “quality” of spiritual direction can increase.