As a spiritual director, Louise’s wish is ‘for other people to know the Lord'
When Louise Paré lost her job at a Catholic publishing company after 42 years, she wasn’t sure what to do with her life.
One minute she was working and the next she was unemployed, and still a year away from retirement.
She asked her pastor to pray for her and to help her discern what to do next. He said “spiritual direction” kept coming to him in his prayer. So she signed up for a course on becoming a spiritual director through the Institute for Spiritual Direction, which is run out of the St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt. She completed the course in December 2018.
“To me, the big thing – the only thing – is to help people have a better relationship with Jesus,” Louise says. “A lot of people are very faithful Catholics and have been going to church their whole life. They may serve in the parish, but when it comes to having a personal relationship with Jesus, they don’t even know it’s possible.”
“They work so hard to make their faith part of their life, and it almost breaks my heart that they don’t know how much Jesus loves them and how active he is in their lives,” she says. “There’s always a hunger in them.”
Louise says spiritual direction is often misunderstood, but has gained traction and is becoming something in which lay people are interested.
“It’s been quite a blessing and an eye-opener to be able to meet with people and see the hunger they have for the Lord,” she says.
The Institute for Spiritual Direction (ISD) program is only a few years old, but the class sizes are growing rapidly. Louise’s class had only seven people; a current class has nearly double that. “There is growth and so much interest in the program,” she says.
According to Father David Rosenberg, director of the St. Francis Retreat Center and the institute, participants are typically people who have served the Church in some way previously. The program consists of coursework and practicum sections. While completing the practicum, spiritual directors in training meet with people who are on retreat at St. Francis. Those conversations allow them to practice their craft before they take on their own directees at parishes.
For Louise, becoming a spiritual director is related to other things she’s done in her life to grow closer to the Lord, such as becoming a consecrated virgin in 1992.
“What I’m doing as a spiritual director is almost an extension of that. You give your life to the Lord in a very deep way, and you come to understand the love he has for the Church and for each person. It really drives and motivates what I do – this drive for other people to know the Lord.”
Father David says the ISD course is a serious commitment for those who want to participate, but it is helping fill a gap in parishes for people who need guidance.
“Spiritual direction is getting help in the ultimate journey of our spiritual life,” he says. “It’s very hard to do that on your own.” Spiritual directors were critical in his own journey to the priesthood, so he wants to give others the same gift.
“If you bring a person in that’s been connected to their faith and you give them insight into a deeper journey, they will be as profoundly moved as I was,” Father David says.
For people such as Louise, the journey to learning how to help others also helps them.
“People are experiencing their own inner conversions and becoming radically moved by the life of Christ, through the saints, and they get to pass that onto their directees,” Father David says.
Louise says it’s inspiring to watch people discover God’s love for them and their desire to serve him: “It’s so beautiful to watch it unfold. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do something like this.”