Souljourners is an ecumenical spiritual formation program for those seeking access to the nourishment of the deep wells of spiritual treasure within their tradition. Based at Sophia Center, a spirituality center sponsored by the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, this program has the unique gift of Benedictine hospitality where students are embraced by a living, praying community. Coming together monthly in this setting, Souljourners form a community within the community.
Souljourners provides a compact three-year opportunity to explore and develop the ministry of spiritual direction/companionship for those who feel a call to perform the service of “holy listening” with people on the spiritual journey. The circle diagram illustrates the experience of a Souljourners training weekend immersed within these two communities.
One year of course work in the “Knowledge of God and the Christian Spiritual Tradition”.
One year of course work in the “Knowledge of Self and Graced Human Development”.
One year of practicum.
All Souljourners participate in a week-long residency in June during their first year in the program, and again during the second year of the program. Residency weeks take place at Sophia Center and provide an important opportunity for interaction with Souljourner faculty and fellow students.
The small group process is an important aspect of Souljourners weekend gatherings. It is through small groups, that students are given the opportunity to develop the necessary skills such as reflective listening, asking good questions, and being attentive. Through the small group experience, students establish a level of trust in which good learning can take place. They will receive suggestions and adaptations in their directing and have the opportunity to watch and learn from one another. Students are assigned to a small group and each group will have two Faculty Advisors. The small group will meet twice each Souljourner weekend and Group membership will remain the same for that year of the program.
On-Going Spiritual Direction
All students will participate in ongoing Spiritual Direction while participating in this program. To meet this program requirement, the student will meet every 4-6 weeks with a Spiritual Director outside of Souljourners.
Year 1 & 2 Requirements
For each of the two years of study, Souljourner students are expected to:
- Participate in a week-long residency in June
- Participate in 7 weekend sessions starting on Friday mid-afternoon and ending at 4:30 pm on Saturday. Students unable to attend one weekend session for pastoral or family emergencies will be expected to make up the weekend either by attending that session when it is next available or, in consultation with their advisor, determine an appropriate make-up assignment. With the emphasis placed on small group processes and the communal bonds of prayer, only one weekend absence per year is allowed.
- Completion of reading assignments
- Completion of seven Reflection Papers assigned in conjunction with the weekend/residency sessions. All papers are due one month after the session.
- Completion of five book reflections.
- Complete all of Year 1 and 2 assignments, participation in a discernment retreat, and payment of all Year 1 and 2 fees.
Supervised Spiritual Direction
In September of their second year, students will begin a supervisory experience. In preparation for this, they are to meet with one directee for monthly sessions and bring a verbatim of one of those sessions to the Souljourners weekend. This will then be used in a Supervisory Session, conducted by a Souljourners staff member. The purpose of these sessions is to provide feedback and guidance to foster further improvement of skills as a Spiritual Director.
For the Practicum Year, Souljourner students are expected to:
- Complete all Year 2 assignments and pay all Year 2 fees.
- Participate in a three-day silent retreat and a one-day orientation at the beginning of Practicum year.
- Contract to meet monthly as a Spiritual Director with two directees for a 9 month period.
- Write verbatims from the exchanges with their directees. From these experiences, the Practicum student will note their own emotional reaction and how that impacts their own journey of conversion. This information will be shared with a professional supervisor.
- Work with a trained, approved supervisor to obtain professional supervision of their work with directees. This professional supervision will consist of 9 monthly meetings with that supervisor. The focus of supervision is always primarily the inner spiritual/emotional experience of the director.
- Meet with other practicum students at Sophia Center for input and practice in the fall and spring of the Practicum Year.
- Partake in on-going support during the Practicum – Former faculty advisors are available for assistance during the practicum year. If a student has difficulty completing the required number of supervision sessions within the Practicum Year, and upon recommendation of the faculty, the student may be granted a one-time extension for a total period of 24 months, to complete the Practicum.
Meet the Staff
Sister Mary Elizabeth Schweiger, OSB, is a member of the Benedictine Community of Mount St. Scholastica. She earned her master’s degree in Liturgy from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, and in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University. Mary Liz worked in pastoral ministry for many years in the Kansas City area. After 12 years as sub-prioress of Mount St. Scholastica, she has been on the staff of Sophia Center for six years. She is the Director of Souljourners and Coordinator of the Oblate Directors of the Mount. Mary Liz also serves on the Community Council, does spiritual direction, and offers retreats.
Mary Kay Whitacre is a 2005 graduate of Souljourners and has been on the Souljourners staff since 2005. She has worked in pastoral ministry in the Catholic Church for more than 40 years. She has a master’s degree from Seattle University and has recently received her Doctor of Ministry from Seattle University. Mary Kay is Associate Director of Souljourners and does spiritual direction, supervision, and a variety of retreats.
Sister Micaela Randolph, OSB, is a member of the Benedictine Community of Mount St. Scholastica. She earned a master’s degree in Religious Education from St. Meinrad’s in Meinrad, IN in 1979 and a master’s degree in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University in 1990. Micaela is a former Director of Initial Formation for her community. She has been ministering in Sophia Center since 2003 and served as Director of Souljourners for 15 years. She continues to serve on the staff of Souljourners along with offering spiritual direction, supervision, and retreats.
Sister Marcia Ziska, OSB, is a member of the Benedictine Community of Mount St. Scholastica. She earned her master’s degree in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She has served in pastoral care and received her pastoral certification from Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, KS. Currently, she serves her community as Vocation Minister and is on the staff for Souljourners. She offers spiritual direction, supervision and retreats.
Janice Brandon-Falconehas been active in parish work for many years and is a retired professor of United States History at Northwest Missouri State University. She holds a PhD in American Studies from Saint Louis University. Janice graduated from Souljourners in 2014 and has been a staff member in the program since 2015. She hosts a weekly community meal at her parish in Maryville, does spiritual direction, and is interested in contemplative prayer practices and spiritual listening.
Renee Bhatia is a Spiritual Director living in Overland Park, KS. She serves as a staff member of the Souljourners program from which she graduated in 2015. She received a Masters of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She currently is studying Expressive Arts and its relationship to spirituality and spiritual direction.
Bernadette “Bernie” Graves lives in Kansas City, MO. She is a graduate of the New Wine Lay Ministry Formation program and participated in parish ministry for many years. She graduated from Souljourners in 2013 and was an intern with the Souljourners program from 2015-2017. She is presently serving on staff.
Shana Puckett earned a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and currently works in private practice as a Spiritual Director, Supervisor and Leadership Development Consultant. She served as a lay minister for more than 20 years in a variety of faith communities and on staff with the Souljourners program since 2015. Shana is the founder of Wayfarer Consulting and offers retreats, workshop facilitation, and speaking related to spiritual practice and healing. She is currently enrolled in a three-year professional shamanic practitioner training. She is passionate about gathering in inclusive inter-spiritual communities, and holistic, embodied spirituality.
Sister Mary Pat is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, KS. Mary Pat studied at Gonzaga University and earned a master’s degree in Christian Spirituality and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. She is a spiritual director and retreat leader and enjoys Jungian psychology, dream work, and Christian contemplative and meditative practices.
Donna Kehoe earned a master’s degree in English Literature and worked for more than thirty years as an adjunct faculty member, writer, and editor, spending many of those years in Christian publishing. She graduated from Souljourners in 2018 and served as an intern, until joining the staff. Donna has been active in local church ministry for many years, leading small groups, mentoring youth, and offering spiritual direction. She is passionate about the ways the Spirit transforms and accompanies people in their daily lives.
Sister Susan Barber, OSB, is a member of the Benedictine Community of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, KS. She received a master’s degree in Music from UMKC and a master’s degree from Catholic Theological University in Chicago. Susan is currently the community’s liturgist. She is one of the community’s main organists and pianists. Susan graduated from Souljourners in 2018 and offers retreats at Sophia.