Franciscan University Launches School of Spiritual Direction
New program, which features traditional semester-style learning and a summer intensive program, seeks to meet the growing demand for trained spiritual directors.
December 2, 2019

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Responding to the spiritual needs of both the local and global Church, Franciscan University of Steubenville launched a passionately Catholic and dynamically orthodox School of Spiritual Direction during the fall 2019 semester.

The school, which is based around a curriculum faithful to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, launched after a one-year pilot program began forming 18 men and women as spiritual directors who are now serving communities in the Ohio Valley region. Taking St. John Henry Newman’s motto “cor ad cor loquitur”—“heart speaks to heart”—as its own, the school aims to cultivate the spiritualization of the interior life and elevation of the soul through prayer in its students, teaching them to help others achieve the same.

Spiritual direction has grown in popularity in recent years, as Church leaders have reasserted its importance in the lives of not just the consecrated and religious, but the laity as well. Speaking in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI recommended that “everyone, in fact, especially those who have heeded the divine call to follow Christ closely, needs to be accompanied personally by a guide reliable in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”

According to Robert Siemens, the director of the School of Spiritual Direction, this call to renew and expand the practice of spiritual direction is both fundamental to Franciscan University’s mission of forming joyful disciples and to meeting the needs of a culture in which individuals are increasingly isolated.

“I think we’re seeing a greater need for people to walk alongside people,” said Siemens, who, along with his wife, Shannon, graduated from the spiritual direction program at the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Denver, Colorado. “Spiritual directors can meet that demand in the human heart for people to be known and to be loved for who they are. And that’s how people will encounter God.”

Siemens encourages everyone, lay or religious, to explore formal spiritual direction training if they feel called by God.

“This is a program for those who feel called by God to give what they have, which is an interior life of contemplative prayer and love for Our Lord,” said Siemens. “While ideally applicants should be familiar with spiritual direction and have experienced the exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, they do not necessarily need advanced academic training in theology.”

The school operates under a cohort structure both during the academic year, in which students meet once a week for 24 sessions, and during the summer, in which students meet daily for two weeks. These options allow Franciscan University to train not only aspiring spiritual directors from the Ohio Valley, but from around the nation and the world, too.

Classroom sessions, facilitated by faculty and staff from Franciscan University, will focus on topics that lay the foundation for spiritual direction, while a practicum focused on prayer and discussion will help students discern and act as a conduit of the Holy Spirit working in their directees’ lives.

Applications are currently being accepted for the summer 2020 and fall 2020 terms. For more information on Franciscan University’s School of Spiritual Direction, including how to enroll in either the semester or summer cohort, visit our website or email inquiries to

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