Program Information

Heart of Christ Spiritual Direction Program is collaborating with Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation to offer training in Spiritual Direction. The program is grounded in Ignatian and Carmelite spirituality, with a Catholic worldview and an emphasis on the vital role of genuine prayer and growth in holiness and virtue.

The program consists of two phases: Phase one with Avila Institute, and Phase two with Heart of Christ. An approved version of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises must also be completed before Phase two.

Avila Institute courses and Heart of Christ weekly meetings will be held online. The Heart of Christ program also includes two one-week June sessions located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Avila Institute

Visit the Avila Institute website to apply for this portion of the program.

1st year:  Includes four Avila courses and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius:

  • Intro to Spiritual Direction
  • Foundations in Prayer
  • Discernment of Spirits
  • Breaking the Chains that Bind: Intro to Moral Theology

The four courses can be taken in any order.  Application to the Heart of Christ may be made after completion of two of the courses.


Spiritual Exercises

In addition, students must complete the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius by making either:

  • The 30-day version, OR
  • The 19th Annotated version (30-36 weeks)

It is essential that a complete, supervised experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius be completed.  The 19th annotated includes weekly meetings of the individual retreatant with a trained spiritual director.  These weekly meetings may be done in person or virtually.

All applicants should consult with the Directors of Heart of Christ before embarking on the Exercises.  For approval please complete and submit Approval form for the Exercises.  It is recommended that this take place a year prior to when you plan to begin with Heart of Christ.  For example, if you plan to attend Heart of Christ in June, you should embark on the Exercises no later than the previous October.

A full, traditional version of the exercises is required. 

For the 30 day version, the retreat must be full time in a retreat house.  It cannot be done at home.

For the 19th annotated, which extends from 30 – 36 weeks, the retreatant is expected to pray daily with the assigned scriptures for an hour and meet weekly with the director.  Approved versions of the exercises include Puhl, Ganss, Fleming, O’Brien, Ravier, Hardon, and Tetlow.  Please obtain specific approval of your plan for the exercises before beginning, regardless of which version is chosen.  

If you have completed the exercises within the last five years, contact the Directors to confirm whether the version you used will satisfy the requirement.  Please note that group experiences of the exercises will not be accepted to satisfy this requirement.  Also, there are no online versions that are acceptable.

The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (30 day or 19th annotated) are the responsibility of the individual candidate and must be approved by the Directors of Heart of Christ program before starting, and must be completed before the first June session.


Heart of Christ

2nd year:
  Includes onsite classes in June (Friday through Friday) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, weekly online meetings on Thursday evenings via Zoom from September through May, and onsite classes the following June (Monday through Friday).

First June Session:

June training at Heart of Christ in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Friday-Friday).

  • Course on Virtues or Advanced prayer*
  • Listening skill presentations and practice
  • Reflecting techniques
  • Role playing
  • Other related topics

Weekly meetings:

After the first June session, participate in weekly online meetings on Thursdays (Sept-May) focusing on:

  • Spiritual direction principles and techniques
  • Listening skills and role play
  • Training in verbatims
  • Daily prayer with assigned scripture
  • Practicum from January through April: candidates direct one person for 16 weeks through a series of Ignatian prayer themes. Supervision occurs throughout the practicum.

Second June Session:

Return for the following June training at Heart of Christ in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Monday-Friday):

  • Course on Virtues or Advanced prayer*
  • Listening skill presentations and practice
  • Reflecting techniques
  • Role playing
  • Other related topics

June segment for 2022:

Ist year students: June 10-17

2nd year students: June 13-17


*June Segments:  Topics for the week long sessions alternate yearly between Prayer and Growth in Holiness and a course in the Theological and Cardinal Virtues with Gerry Rauch.

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Program Fees