Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute

The Art & Skill of Spiritual Direction & Companionship

To register for the first session of our next cohort, April 21-26, 2024 please click here. Commuter and virtual options are also available.

directed retreat

We offer a nationally-recognized training program in the art and skill of spiritual direction. Over the course of a year, participants gather three times, each time for an intensive week. There are some assignments and a practicum between those weeks. The topics covered include basic listening skills, how a person forms their image of God and how spiritual direction can help when that image needs healing, dealing with issues that call for inclusivity such as with LGBTQ+ and those alienated from the church, the causes of spiritual darkness and how spiritual direction can be healing. Throughout the program, participants are called to be attentive to the movements of grace. The intensive weeks are not only training, but an experience of personal spiritual deepening, all in a community of like-minded people.

Our participants are from a wide variety of backgrounds and church affiliations. Some want to practice as spiritual directors. Others come to enrich their interpersonal skills for spiritual accompaniment in other contexts.

What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction or spiritual companionship is a process guided by the Holy Spirit in which two people enter into a unique conversation. The spiritual director or guide is trained to listen in a particular way to hear where God is present and acting in the life of another. This “holy listening” approaches each person’s life and story as sacred.

Spiritual Direction/Companioning has a centuries old history and can be found in many faith traditions. Once the domain of desert Fathers and Mothers, clergy and religious, the practice of spiritual direction is open to others who feel the call to this ministry.

Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute is an intensive training and formation program for those who feel that they may be experiencing this call or simply want to deepen their spirituality. Participation in the program can also help individuals discern if they are, in fact, called to this ministry.

The program is grounded in the Christian, gospel tradition and the charism of the Sisters of Bon Secours which is Compassion, Healing and Liberation.

Course Description & Goals:
Our first week-long course is an introduction and overview of spiritual direction in the Christian tradition. It is intended to enhance the student’s understanding of the spiritual life, with attention given to beginning to develop the basic skills necessary for this ministry.

Week long intensives incorporate many elements that enhance learning. These include varied experiences of prayer and reflection, small and large group discussion, role playing, case studies, lectures on a variety of topics and, of course, readings and written assignments.

Between the second and third intensive weeks, students will have the experience of practicing spiritual direction. In the third week, they will present case studies to the class.

There are required readings and a paper due during the year-long program as well.
The program consists of three week-long intensives. The first week includes:

– Overview of the course
– What is the spiritual life?
– What is spiritual direction?
– Basic listening skills; what it means to be present to another

Fundamentals of Spiritual Companionship
– Spiritual direction as a specific kind of spiritual companionship
– The skills of attending, companioning, and responding
– Discussion of Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening

– Prayer as a journey within: meditation, contemplation (Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle will be referenced)

– Discernment as a disposition of the heart
– Criteria for discernment
– Discussion of Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith

The Spiritual Life of the Spiritual Director/Companion

– Adopting a “Rule of Life”
– Self-care for spiritual directors

Course Learning Objectives:
By the end of the first, week-long intensive, students will:

-Have a basic understanding of the spiritual life, its breadth, depth, and language, in order to understand the context of spiritual direction ministry.

-Examine and understand the core principles of effective spiritual direction, noting the implications for both the director and the directee.

-Develop and practice the basic interpersonal skills necessary for the exercise of this ministry, such as active listening, self-disclosure, etc…

Intensive Weeks 1-3:

April 21-26, 2024
October 6-11, 2024
April 27-May 2, 2025

Our first week-long course in the program will be held, April 21-26. Then, the second course is scheduled in the spring, October 6-11. The last week-long intensive, April 27-May 2, 2025, will complete the course of study. A certificate of completion will be awarded upon completion of the entire program, which includes these three week-long sessions and the required course work.

Spiritual Direction and companionship

We were pleased to gather 19 participants in the 5th cohort of our Spiritual Direction Institute as they celebrated their graduation in September, 2023. Pictured here with staff from the program too.

Program Coordinators:

Kathleen Hope Brown, D.Min., is adjunct faculty in the Doctor of Ministry program and the Master of Divinity program at Virginia Theological Seminary, where she teaches spiritual direction and spirituality studies. She is also a spiritual integrator at the St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD. Her doctorate in Adult Spiritual Formation is from Catholic University.

Sister Bernadette Claps, a Sister of Bon Secours, provides spiritual direction and spiritual companionship at the Retreat and Conference Center at Bon Secours. She holds graduate certificates in Spiritual Direction, Spirituality and Aging. She has done graduate studies in theology and received a Master of Social Work from New York University.


Facilitators & Lecturers:

Linda Mastro is a graduate and on the faculty of the Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute in Marriottsville, MD. She is also an Associate of Bon Secours. Linda is a spiritual companion for individuals and groups. She brings a spirit of compassion and light-heartedness to her work as a women’s retreat facilitator, pilgrimage leader, and workshop guide. Linda is co-author of the book Petite Retreats: Renewing Body, Mind, and Spirit without Leaving Home. Learn more about Linda at


Guest Lecturers:

Edward M. Andrews, LPC, LMFT, NCC, MAC, CT is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who is also certified in Addictions Counseling, and Thanatology. He has more than twenty-five years of experience working with people coping with mental health issues, substance use disorders, sexual identity, Men’s Health, Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual concerns, PTSD, HIV/AIDS other life-limiting illnesses, aging, life-transitions, meaning, spirituality, dying, death and bereavement. He is trained in both Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, DBT, and in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, and is ASAM certified. He is an active member of many professional organizations including the American Psychological Association, (Division 51: Men and Masculinities), American Counseling Association, the Virginia Counselors Association, the Association for Addiction Professionals, the Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Association for the Advancement of Psychosynthesis. He enjoys working with diverse clients using a holistic approach.  Originally from New York City, Ed has worked in education and human services in various settings including at Kaiser Permanente, the Bon Secours Health System, the Richmond AIDS Information Network, GMHC, and in private practice. He has taught on the secondary and higher education levels for many years. He continues to teach and present workshops on a range of topics related to mental health at national and international conferences. Ed studied at Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Tech and the Washington Theological Union.

Christine Beckett, SCN has a master’s degree in Spiritual Theology from the St. Louis University School of Divinity/Theology. Years ago, she participated in one of the first certified programs established to prepare persons interested in and hearing the call, as a woman and religious, to provide spiritual direction, including directing retreats, particularly, the Ignatian 30 Day retreat. Recently she renewed her certification through the Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute program. For over 50 years she has served as a spiritual companion and director with individuals in all walks of life and of all different faith traditions. She also facilitates groups discerning/making decisions for their programs and their lives.  

Donna Bilek is a 2018 graduate from the Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute and is a Spiritual Director/Companion with over fifteen years of experience. An Associate with the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND), she is a member of the Ongoing Personal Development in Community committee for the SSNDs, presenting reflections and prayer on various topics including grief and loss. Donna teaches and guides prayer at “earthwalk Center for Wholeness,” which she founded in 2005. Donna taught Spirituality, Biblical Studies, and Death and Dying at Notre Dame of Maryland University for thirteen years. She holds a M.A. in Theology from St. Mary’s Seminary and University.

Kathy Galleher, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Maryland who specializes in working with individuals in ministry. She received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Colorado State University in 1993 and for eight years she was a staff psychologist at the St. Luke Institute, a residential treatment center for priests and religious. In 2006, she started KMG Consultation, which promotes healthy ministry through workshops, facilitation, and therapy. She presents to lay and religious groups on topics including self-care, conflict management, transitions, sexual integration, and healthy boundaries.

Sister Rhoda Kay Glunk, SCN is a Sister of Charity of Nazareth. She has served as teacher, Hospital Chaplain, Director of Religious Education, RCIA , and Youth Ministry, Parish Pastoral Minister, and in Congregational Leadership. Sister Kay is currently serving in the ministry of Spiritual Direction, having completed the Spiritual Direction Program in the Vincentian Tradition and Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute. She holds a master’s degree in Religious Studies from St. Louis University.

Kathleen Henderson Staudt, Ph.D., SCHC works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the greater Washington DC area. She serves as adjunct faculty in theological studies at Virginia Theological Seminary and has taught frequently in in the Bon Secours Spiritual Direction Institute. A poet and writer, Kathy has published four volumes of original poetry, most recently Viriditas: New and Selected Poems (2023). She has published two books and many articles on the British Catholic artist and poet David Jones, as well as writing on Christian spirituality and practice, most recently Shaping a Faithful Life: Discernment and Discipleship for Young Adults (2021). Kathy is a Companion in the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross (SCHC). Her website is at