Conversation with a spiritual director

Stairs leading to the office of Salvatorian Sister Pat Kieler are well worn. Women and men from all walks of life, single, religious and clergy, married and divorced have taken those stairs looking for spiritual direction.  There is an ecumenical dimension to Sr. Pat’s ministry too. She has given spiritual direction to ordained women and men from other faith traditions, including Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Church of Christ.

Q. How did you feel called to become a spiritual director?

Sr. Pat: More than 35 years ago, I was invited by our SDS leadership to offer spiritual direction both within and outside our SDS community. I had done appropriate study in both theology and spirituality, but I believe the call to spiritual direction is a particular charism that goes beyond formal education. My attraction for this ministry has flowed from my own experience of the goodness and kindness of Jesus. I felt a desire to help others come to realize it in their lives too.

Q. What are people looking for through spiritual direction?

Sr. Pat: What these people have in common is a hunger for God, and a commitment to prayer and wholeness. Each person already has a spiritual direction which I simply support, clarify and encourage, or perhaps assist in discerning a new direction.

Q. Is spiritual direction the same as pastoral counseling?

Sr. Pat: Spiritual direction differs from pastoral counseling or problem solving, though that might enter in sometimes. Our focus is the person’s faith life. I listen to the stories people bring and together we try to recognize God’s footprints in their lives where they might have missed them. A person comes for a scheduled hour, usually once a month, and brings his or her own agenda.

Q. What prompts someone to seek out a spiritual director?

Sr. Pat: Initially, it might come at a time of crisis or recommitment, after a retreat, at a point of decision making, or just in a hunger for authentic living or prayer. By being a loving presence of unconditional acceptance, I hope to mirror God’s unconditional love for that person. In that setting, people come to know themselves and God more clearly.

Sr. Pat describes her ministry as a great privilege of inviting others one by one, to discover God in their lives and be a light for the world. She says much of her ministry is listening and affirming. “I do not need to have all the answers. I simply invite others to a confidence in God’s providence in every detail of their lives. Meanwhile, I continue to grow every day into this ministry.”

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