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Mind and Spirit in Partnership: Benedictine Collaboration for Spiritual Direction Becky Van Ness, OblSB

THE SPIRITUALITY CENTER AT SAINT BENEDICT’S MONASTERY has long been a resource for those who desire individual spiritual direction. In addition, several cohorts of students completed an “Internship in Spiritual Direction” under the expert guidance of Sister Kathryn Casper and Sister Josue Behnen at the Center beginning in the late 1990s. Some students from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary took part in the program.

The School of Theology recognized the benefits of making this training more readily available to students. In 2012, Dean Bill Cahoy contacted S. Kathryn and S. Josue, hoping to create a collaborative program. The School of Theology would offer a theological foundation through academic coursework and the sisters would provide mentoring in the art and skills of spiritual direction. One of the Saint Benedict’s Monastery oblates (lay women and men who are committed to live out the Rule of Benedict in the world), Becky Van Ness, came on board as consultant to draft the program and facilitate a working agreement between the monastery and the university. Both partners supported the endeavor enthusiastically, leading to the program launch in the fall of 2013. The first cohort graduated in July 2015. Student evaluations of the program included: “The experience of doing direction and writing the reflection papers was powerful and transformative.” and “[The program is] experiential, thought-provoking and transformative.”

The program content for the second student cohort has been refined, and four Benedictine themes are now woven into the coursework and practicum: 1. Lectio on Life: Lectio divina (prayerful reading of Scripture) prepares us to approach our lived experience contemplatively and to listen for our own sacred story as we practice lectio on life. 2. Hospitality: The practice of hospitality opens us to receive God in unexpected ways as we welcome others as Christ.

3. Stability: Yielding to God’s presence in daily life and the practice of “staying with” (stability), rather than escaping our experiences, frees us to be fully alive in the here-and-now.

4. Conversion of Life: Accepting that we are called to continual conversion (conversatio morum) increases our desire to listen for God’s on-going call and to be faithful to the life to which we are called.

A free booklet is available relating these themes to the theological assumptions of spiritual direction. If you would like a copy, please email Becky Van Ness at or call her at (320) 363-3559. You may view the booklet online by visiting the School of Theology Web site:

ABOVE: Director of the Spiritual Direction program at Saint John’s School of Theology, Becky Van Ness, OblSB, and Director of the Spirituality Center/Studium, Sister Mary Weidner

Benedictine Sisters and Friends, Spring Summer 2016  

Published by the Office of Mission Advancement, Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. The purpose of Benedictine Sisters and Friends...