SDC 100: Ongoing Conversion, Deepening Discipleship, and the Foundations of Spiritual Direction introduces students to God’s plan for the human person and His desire that the person “have life and life in abundance” (John 10:10). Students delve into the Catholic understanding of the human person and the progressive development and complete flourishing that are part of God’s plan for each person. This fundamentally positive model views the person as possessing intrinsic dignity, as free and able to make responsible choices, relational and connected to others and society, and as seeking well-being, moral character, and spiritual growth; meanwhile, each person also experiences the mysterious reality of sin. Students then consider the nature of spiritual direction, its history and the identity of a spiritual director. Finally, students assess the relationship of the program to their personal goals and create a development plan that they refine throughout their course of studies.
SDC 200 Human Development for Spiritual Direction explores the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual facets of human growth and development. This course focuses on basic processes and theories involved in the development of human relationships, as they illuminate challenges and opportunities in the spiritual life. Students will learn how human development can enlighten the process of spiritual growth.
SDC 300: Relating Skills for Spiritual Direction (with Residency in week 7) introduces foundational skills essential to become an effective spiritual director. Students focus on developing interviewing and listening skills, and building healthy relationships with directees. Emphasis is on empathetic listening, developing directee narratives (case conceptualization), the nature and boundaries of the spiritual direction relationship, and its correlation with other helping professionals. Students will participate in sessions with peers in order to practice and demonstrate basic spiritual direction skills. The course ends with a 4-day residency to assess and deepen these skills. On completion of this course, students are asked to begin accompanying 2 people on a monthly basis for 1 year as a prayer coach.
SDC 400: Discernment and Spiritual Growth: Theory and Practice builds on the previous courses and looks specifically at the factors that contribute toward or impede spiritual development and flourishing, including the growth and influence of vice and virtue, sin and grace, as well as the human and social realities that can affect growth of the supernatural life. Students are introduced to recognizing the movements of the Holy Spirit within their own soul and the souls of others, and thus distinguishing what arises from psychological or emotional factors from the spiritual. Students also learn how to recognize and refer for problems requiring psychological counseling.
SDC 500: Advanced Spiritual Direction Skills and Practicum: Putting Out into the Deep (with Residency in Week 2) provides students with an initial experience in ministering to diverse individuals. This experience requires 48 hours of direct service, face-to-face with 8 directees in spiritual direction over a period of 8 weeks, conducting introductory sessions and appraisal, strategy sketching/discernment of spiritual direction goals, and regular spiritual direction sessions. Students will participate in individual supervision and peer groups in which they will review their spiritual direction sessions (in an anonymous way) for discussion and evaluation. Student performance is monitored throughout the course and includes a formal evaluation at the middle and end of the course. Students will be able to demonstrate the necessary ministerial and ethical competencies in the areas of interviewing, review of personal history, case conceptualization, knowledge, and use of different methods of giving spiritual direction, and scheduling and workload management. The course begins with a 4-day residency to assess and deepen students’ understanding and practice of the needed professionalism and spiritual direction skills.
SDC 600: Advanced Prayer and Situations explores mature stages of spiritual growth, including the ongoing development and stages of prayer, passive purifications of the spirit, and the spiritual movements of persons as they develop more deeply in their walk with the Lord. Students focus on the growth of Christ within the soul and union with God through the different stages of this growth and the collaboration that the person can contribute through a life of grace, prayer and discernment, living of virtue and service to others.
All courses are fully online, in eight-week modules, and asynchronous (i.e. students complete weekly coursework at a time of their own choosing).
Each course requires on average about 7-10 hours of work per week.
The skills-related courses (SDC 300 and SDC 500) involve some group work via video conferencing and include a required four-day residency.
None of the SDC Program courses carry transferable credit to the degree programs of Divine Mercy University.