The Spiritual Direction Institute

at Emmaus Spirituality Center

Forming Clergy, Religious, and Laity in the ministry of Spiritual Direction to serve in their parish or faith community, and in other places of Christian ministry. 


Since 1985, the Spiritual Direction Institute, begun by Sr. Mary Dennison, rc and continued by Sr. Ann Goggin, rc, has offered a three-year training program. The greater Houston area has greatly benefited from the spiritual presence and skilled servant ministry its hundreds of graduates have contributed in a variety of settings.  Operating for over 35 years under the auspices of the Cenacle Retreat House, the program now resides at the Emmaus Spirituality Center. 


The Spiritual Direction Institute offers the three-year formation program to clergy, religious and laity who feel called to the ministry. It is structured to promote student growth and competency in the areas of:  theology, prayer, spirituality, and the skills necessary to accompany and foster spiritual growth in others.  The program is interdisciplinary, experiential, and process-oriented. 

Each class is developed and given by a team providing professional and theological input.  Using the shared Christian praxis method where applicable, students are helped to integrate the new content with their own experience.


Those who satisfactorily complete the program will receive a certificate of completion.

Admission Procedure

Each applicant will submit:


  • Application form with $20.00 non-refundable application fee.

  • A completed recommendation form from the sponsoring faith community.

  • Three letters of recommendation/evaluation.


Admission Requirements

Applicants must be persons of faith who are:


  • Sponsored by a faith community in which the participant will minister during the third year practicum and beyond.

  • Willing to enter into a process of discernment regarding their call to the ministry of spiritual direction.

  • In possession of a bachelors degree or its equivalent and additional background in theology, counseling, retreats, group work, etc.  Formation Toward Christian Ministry (FTCM) certificate is a plus.

  • Mature and reflective about their life experience.

  • Willing and able to make a commitment to the three year process.

  • Receiving spiritual direction or open to being assigned a spiritual director after needs are determined.

  • Experience of having made an individual directed retreat helpful.


Program Requirements


  • Be regular in attendance at scheduled sessions.

  • Be actively and enthusiastically involved in the process.

  • Do the readings and outside assignments.

  • Demonstrate satisfactory understanding and aptitude to do spiritual direction.


Image by Anna Earl

Three-Year Program Curriculum

Year One

  • Theological Anthropology

  • Christology

  • Introduction to Spirituality

  • Personal Prayer

  • The Examen

  • Theological Reflection & Journaling

  • Introduction to Spiritual Direction

  • Discernment I

  • Empathetic Listening I and II

  • Christian Life-Span Development

  • Enneagram I

Year Three


  • Supervision

  • Discernment

  • Designing Rituals

  • Listening for Feelings

  • Pastoral Counseling vs. Spiritual Direction

  • Transference & Counter Transference

  • Theology of Ministry

  • Ethics and Boundaries

  • Enneagram

  • Spiritual Direction and Grief

  • Blocks in Spiritual Direction

  • Spiritual Direction Practice

Year Two


  • Church History

  • Early Models & Early Writers

  • Middle Ages

  • Darkening Times to the Reformation

  • Liturgical Spirituality/Prayer of the Church

  • Generative Discipleship

  • Mysticism

  • Reformation O'Malley

  • Council of Trent

  • Early Protestantism

  • Major Reformers

  • Development of Religion in America

  • Spirituality of Today

  • Deepening Prayer

  • Transformation

  • Roots of our Own Spirituality

  • Ignatian Spirituality

Spiritual Direction Institute Instructors

(in alphabetical order)

Susan Rippert

Fr. John Rooney

Tim VanDuivendyk

Sr. Roselle Haas, rc
Sam Koenning

Kathleen Messina

Sr. Mary Ann Peters, rc

Maureen Bacchi
Sr. Mary Dennison, rc
Sr. Lois Dideon, rc

Sr. Ann Goggin, rc


Mailing Address:

12645 Memorial Drive, Ste. F1-720

Houston, TX 77024-4979

Phone:  281.241.9678


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Mon - Fri: 10am - 2pm

Physical Address:

12211 Memorial Drive

Houston, TX 77024

Phone:  281.241.9678


© 2020 Emmaus Spirituality Center