Spiritual Direction Formation Program

Spiritual Direction Formation Program

Fairfield University offers a four year certificate program in spiritual direction. This program is for adults who sense a call to serve as spiritual directors or who wish to discern that call by means of this program.

We understand the busyness and demands of life. This program is designed for those whose schedules do not allow time for daytime, evening or weekend class schedules or extended residency periods. Our program includes  a one week intensive residency period each year. The rest of the year is spent in distance learning from home under the guidance of an assigned faculty advisor.

Program Specifics

The program occurs in four phases, one for each year of formation. Candidates may enter the program at any phase.

  • Hearing the Word: study of Christology; praying with Scripture; great themes from Scripture; an overview and study of issues related to the process and practice of spiritual direction; practicing direction and the experience of supervision
  • Discerning the Word: study of the process of discernment; dynamics of human growth; ecclesiology, prayer; issues in spiritual direction; supervised practice of spiritual direction
  • Contemplating the Word: study of the concepts of conversion, faith development, Christian anthropology, personality and spirituality; issues in spiritual direction; supervised practice of spiritual direction
  • Celebrating the Word: social justice through Gospel values; history of Christian spirituality, personality and prayer; issues in spiritual direction; supervised practice of spiritual direction

Residency week takes place at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, NC, just north of Greensboro. During residency, candidates are involved/immersed in the following:

  • Formal classroom sessions, supervised practicum in the practice of spiritual direction, an understanding of 1/1 supervision and peer supervisory models, daily prayer and reflection through the process of Holy Listening and daily liturgy
  • Daily "Track" meetings with candidates at similar levels of experience, including supervised practicum in the practice of spiritual direction.

For the balance of the year, and from home, candidates are required to:

  • Read about 6 articles per quarter (materials provided at residency) for a total of 24 per year; write a 1 page reflection paper on each article
  • Read about 5 books (list provided at residency); write a three page reflection paper on each
  • Submit 2 in-depth self-evaluations per year (5-10 pages each)
  • Meet with an assigned faculty advisor quarterly (via phone)
  • Make a 5-7 day annual silent, directed retreat
  • Remain in the process of spiritual direction

Candidates who begin to sit with individuals in direction are required to do so under supervision and must obtain their own supervisor (faculty may offer recommendations for trained, experienced supervisors). In addition, the candidate must:

  • Write and submit 8 contemplative verbatims per year (Tracks 2 and 3)
  • Meet regularly with their supervisor to review all verbatims; discuss any learning or consultation questions

Candidates practicing spiritual direction under supervision will be evaluated twice each year by their supervisor. The supervisor should review your evaluation with you.


Candidates who complete all four phases of formation are eligible for one of two certificates:

  • Certificate in Spiritual Direction: for candidates who complete all requirements, including offering direction under supervision and completing all verbatim requirements
  • Certificate in Spirituality: for candidates who discern that they do not have a call to the ministry of spiritual direction or who have not had the experience of sitting with individuals in direction under supervision, but who complete all other program requirements

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates for admission must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a minimum of 30 years of age
  • Be in spiritual direction for at least one year prior to admission
  • Be an active member of a faith community

Application Form
Tuition payment link


  • Current Tuition: $1,250 for the year; covers costs for classes and materials provided for residency week, four faculty advisory meetings, speakers' fees. Tuition is payable. in full no later than May 1 each year.
  • Tuition Payment: Payment may be made in one of two ways:  by check payable to Fairfield University and can be mailed directly to Fairfield University to Elizabeth Hastings, Fairfield University, Donnarumma 251, North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824
  • OR by clicking the Tuition Payment link directly above this section (see application process for details.)

Lodging, Use of Facilities, Meals

  • Lodging at St. Francis Springs includes sleeping accommodations, use of meeting rooms, all meals; contact St. Francis Springs directly for costs associated with on-campus lodging (single or double occupancy,)
  • If you choose to stay offsite, you will be charged for meals and use of the facility during resiency week.  Please contact Ann Bauer for meal plan options.
  • Payment room/meals may be made payable directly to St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, 477 Grogan Rd., Stoneville, NC, 27048
  • Call Ann Bauer at St. Francis Springs at (336) 573-3751 to make your lodging/meal accommodations or email inquiries to ann@stfrancissprings.com
  • Ground transportation to and from the Greensboro airport may be provided by St. Francis Springs volunteers based on availability; candidates are responsible for contacting St. Francis Springs directly prior to travel to arrange for transportation

Important Dates

We are accepting applications for June 2018 residency week

2018 Residency Period: June 10 - 16, 2018
Application Deadline: March 1, 2018

2019 Residency Period: June 9 - 15, 2019
Application Deadline: March 1, 2019

Program Faculty

Program Founder: Mária M. Decsy, Ph.D
Mária earned a master's degree in spirituality and pastoral ministry from St. Joseph College in West Hartford, a certificate in spiritual direction from the Hartford Archdiocesan Spiritual Life Center and a doctorate in biochemistry from New York University. She is adjunct professor of World Religions and Human Biology and a member of the Retreat Team of Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington, CT.

Maria Tattu Bowen, Ph.D., Spiritual Director, Supervisor, Professor
Maria earned a Masters in Applied Spirituality from the University of San Francisco, where she was trained as a spiritual director, and a Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  A teacher for the last thirty years, Maria has more than twenty five years’ experience as a spiritual director and retreat leader and more than twenty as a supervisor and trainer of spiritual directors in a cross-cultural seminary context. With Rebecca Bradburn Langer, Maria co-founded Together in the Mystery, an on-site and distance-learning program that trains supervisors from around the world and operates in partnership with San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Maria has contributed essays to such publications as Supervision of Spiritual Directors: Engaging Holy Mystery; Sacred is the Call: Formation and Transformation in Spiritual Direction; and Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry

Rev. James Bowler, SJ, M.A., M.Div.
Fr. Jim serves as facilitator for Catholic and Jesuit identity at Fairfield University, following more than 20 years of ministry in the area of spiritual direction as director of Campion Renewal Center, executive director of the National Jesuit Retreat and Renewal Ministries, and as a staff member at the Guelph Center of spirituality in Ontario, where he was responsible for training and supervising spiritual directors in the Ignatian tradition.

Eileen Crusan, Spiritual Director, Supervisor
Eileen worked for more than 30 years as an HR executive in the health care and financial services industries and graduated from Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center with a certificate in spiritual direction. She is also a graduate of the Together in the Mystery Program, a supervisory training program affiliated with the San Francisco Theological Seminary. She served as Spiritual Director at St. Matthew parish in Charlotte for 4 years and currently serves as Director of Holy Ground of the Carolinas, offering spiritual direction for individuals and groups as well as supervision for individual directors, students, and peer groups. She is trained in Ignatian spirituality and offers the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and guided Ignatian retreats.

Deborah Delano, Spiritual Director, Retreat Guide
Deborah graduated from Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center with a certificate in spiritual direction and serves as a spiritual director in the Charlotte area.

Sr. Karen Doyle, S.S.J., D. Min.
Sr. Karen is co-director of the Spiritual Direction Training Program for clergy and ministers in the diocese of Bridgeport at Fairfield University. She is also on the faculty of the Spiritual Direction Formation Program sponsored by Fairfield University and held in Stoneville, NC.  She previously served for 3 years as assistant director of St. Joseph Retreat Center, Cohasset, and for 12 years at St. Ignatius Retreat House, Manhasset, NY as director of the formation program for adjuncts and staff associates, director of the 30 day retreat practicum and co-director of the supervision practicum. Prior to that, Sister Karen served 4 years on staff at the Ignatius Spiritual Centre, Guelph, Canada and 8 years on staff at the Center for Spirituality in Chestnut Hill, PA, offering 8-day and 30-day retreats. She has been involved in the formation of spiritual directors in Ignatian Spirituality in the US, Canada, Taiwan, Denmark and the Philippines. She holds a D.Min. in Spiritual Direction from the Graduate Theological Foundation, IN; an MA in Christian Spirituality from Creighton University, NE; a BS in Psychology and a Certificate in Supervision from Chestnut Hill College, PA.

Please direct any questions you may have about the program to:

Maria Decsy, Ph.D
Eileen Crusan

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