The Contemplative Leader

by Andrea Noel

 

Everyday usage of the word contemplate implies thorough consideration, or observation with continuous attention. In early Christian spirituality contemplation typically happens within the framework of prayer.

A simple definition of contemplation is “loving presence to what is.” In a Christian context, because we “live and move and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28), being present to things as they are involves encountering the Christ who “fills the whole creation” (Eph. 1:23). In other words, Christian contemplation means finding God in all things and all things in God. Brother Lawrence, the 17th century Carmelite friar, called it “the loving gaze that finds God everywhere.”[1]

Contemplation is an all-encompassing type of presence; it is an instant, open awareness to all creation, accurately perceiving and benevolently responding to things as they actually are. Contemplation can be still and quiet or active and loud. Contemplative living is an orientation toward life that nurtures a simple willingness to be open to God’s movements, leading, and invitations.

The reality and diversity of our community begs for more contemplative leaders throughout our society. The hallmarks of a contemplative leader are transparency, vulnerability, and incompleteness. These characteristics expose the reality of human nature. They reveal humanity’s contusions, fallibilities, fears, innocence, and our need for God’s guiding love. These characteristics open the door for reconciliation, empathy, and change. Other qualities of a contemplative leader include: love, trust, faith, authenticity, prayerfulness, and courage.

The principles that guide contemplative leaders are counter-cultural to American social norms for successful leadership. Surrender is necessary for change; gentleness promotes action; doubt creates space for Divine guidance; being quiet permits a deeper fullness of life.

A contemplative leader is nurtured by an active commitment to prayer and spiritual disciplines: journaling, meditation, intercessory prayer, communal worship, and Sabbath. The type of spiritual discipline practiced is of least importance in the life of contemplative leadership. What matters more is having a consistent daily time of prayer.

A contemplative leader intentionally creates space for prayer and commits to praying during times when prayer is difficult. During seasons of doubt, insignificant awareness of God’s presence, or emotional, psychological and physical strains, a contemplative leader chooses to maintain a regular prayer practice.

The contemplative leader knows deep listening begins with listening from the heart and not the head; it involves empathy and self-reflection. Self-care, and peer support are essential elements for maintaining healthy boundaries and creating safe spaces for care and transformation. Inner work is done best within community. The contemplative leader is fully aware and committed to allowing God to be fully in control and prayer does not need to be elaborate, or difficult, but simply consistent and routine.


[1] Crumley, C., Dietrich, B., Kline, A. & May, G. (2004). What is contemplative spirituality? Retrieved from: http://www.shalem.org/index.php/resources/publications/articles-written-by-shalem-staff/contemplative-spirituality

Just One Step

by Andrea Noel

At a recent visit to my alma mater, I encountered a group of students who chose to participate in the annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program. ASB is a weeklong service learning experience that students voluntarily substitute for entertaining vacations during spring break. ASB is spread nationally and internationally, involves graduates and undergraduates, and responds to the needs of marginalized populations.

Throughout the week, students live together and work in teams at various sites providing services to forgotten residents in local communities. Each day, they reflect on their encounters at these sites. During my visit with the Washington D.C. ASB team, I witnessed meaningful thoughts students shared about people they met at schools, homeless shelters, and hospices.

One particular student shared that there exists this overwhelming need for change in the world. In Washington D.C. there are too many homeless people, individuals dying of AIDS/HIV, children abused and neglected, schools closing and over-crowded, violent crimes increasing, and fixed unemployment rates. This student said it seems impossible for one week of service to make any difference in the lives of individuals who encounter so much scarcity, violence, or disregard. The student believed the work of the week seemed hopeless.

After hearing this, I recalled a prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero. This prayer was written by Bishop Ken Untener, of Saginaw, November 1979, in celebration of the lives of departed priests.

“…The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete…the Kingdom always lies beyond
us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith…

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission…

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development…

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an

opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master

builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.[1]
Amen.

May this prayer shape our ways of being present to those we serve as pastoral counselors and spiritual caregivers. Although problems around us seem monumental, let us do whatever we can with love and care.


[1] Untener, K. (1979) Archbishop Oscar Romero prayer: A step along the way. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers/archbishop_romero_prayer.cfm

Getting it all done NOW… or better yet, yesterday.

By Kate Gerwin

“Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me. I‘d like to discuss the most efficient way for me complete the program…”

The words come back to me like it was yesterday. At the ripe old age of 25, the specter of 30 loomed large in the distance like an exacting track coach, ready to record my time; I was beginning to feel the pressure to “have something to show for myself,”…not that I would have admitted that to anyone—or God forbid to myself—at the time. Having attended Loyola as an undergrad Theology major, I had long been familiar with the Pastoral Counseling program and knew that something felt right about it to me; the marriage of spirituality and psychology excited me in a way I couldn’t yet name, but I somehow knew I needed to be a part of what it entailed. My desire was sincere and my heart was open, and yet I couldn’t shake the culturally prescribed feeling that I had to get it all done NOW… or better yet, yesterday. 

Without hesitating, Dr. Filakowski smiled knowingly and offered what might be the best advice I’ve received to date, “Try not to speed up the process too much.”

And that is exactly what my time in the Pastoral Counseling program has been; a process. Not necessarily a linear one, not always a “successful” one, but certainly a life changing one. It has been the process of learning to accept where I am and who I am— a person full of flaws and contradictions, gifts and graces. It has been a process of learning how to press into those parts of myself that scare me and cause me to recoil; and to freely gift those parts of me that I love, without expectation of return. It has been a process of learning to wait expectantly while immersing myself in the moment and a process that challenges me to constantly reexamine what I knew to be true. It is a process that has helped me to become more compassionate, more open minded and even, more patient. Though I hope to graduate in May of 2015 (after 30, I might add), I hope it is a process that never ends.

Kate Gerwin

Name: Kathleen “Kate” Gerwin
Program: MS Pastoral Counseling

  1. How far along are you in the program?
    I have 6 classes left to go and all of my clinical internship to complete.
  2. Favorite Quote:
    “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi
  3. Favorite spot in Baltimore:
    So many!! The Charles Theatre, One World Café, the BMA, Atwater’s Bakery, Camden Yards… the list goes on!
  4. Where is your hometown?
    McLean, VA—but I have been adopted by Baltimore and plan to make it my hometown for good… Go Ravens!
  5. What is the most meaningful class you’ve taken?
    Introduction to Pastoral Counseling with Dr. Dee Preston Dillon.
  6. Who is your inspiration?
    My spiritual director Fran—no one has taught me more about authenticity and the free, exhilarating, occasionally terrifying but always beautiful gift of life than she has.
  7. What are three unusual things about yourself?
    1. Growing up, I wanted to be a spy or a queen.
    2. I am a pretty big nerd (and I own it!) about holistic living and dieting.
    3. I rescue bugs.
  8. What is your dream job?
    Working at a “Wellness Center” in which traditional therapy and “alternative” medicine are combined—being able to focus on and heal the WHOLE person! Writing and speaking would be in there too somewhere. If I didn’t want to go into this field, I would want to be a fundraiser for a non-profit.
  9. What else should the readers of Making Meaning know about you? 
     I’m happiest when I’m outdoors; I love to do yoga and dance and plan to get my yoga teacher’s license this summer; I consider guacamole to be a food group unto itself; I am very interested in the Enneagram and plan to become a certified Enneagram practitioner; my favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life”; I’m a social introvert; I love exploring new places, whether it’s a new city or a new shop around the corner; I am a big fan of black sharpies and a compulsive  “thank you” note writer; my friends, family and community mean the world to me.

Back to About the Bloggers

Andrea Noel

Name: Andrea A. Noel
Program: MA Pastoral and Spiritual Care

  1. How far along are you in the program?
    I am in my first year.
  2. Favorite Quote:
    “The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” - Ben Okri
  3. Where is your hometown?
    San Fernando, Trinidad, by way of Valdosta, Georgia
  4. What is the most meaningful class you’ve taken?
    Theological Anthropology and Group Spiritual Formation
  5. Who is your inspiration?
    My family… especially my older brother.
  6. What are three unusual things about yourself?
    1. I graduated from high school at age 16.
    2. I have two nose rings.
    3. I wear a lot of purple.
  7. What is your dream job?
    Being an entrepreneur as a spiritual director, success coach, writer, artise, and having my own retreat center.
  8. What else should the readers of Making Meaning know about you?
    I am! I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend, lover, artist, student, teacher, thinking, engineer, writer, dreamer, believer, cat-lover, contemplative, healer, cook, photographer… IamGod.

Back to About the Bloggers

“Go Take a Walk!” – Constructing an Empowering Theological Response to Suffering with Dr. Jill Snodgrass

Dr. Jill at FDR Memorial - One of her Favorite Places

JoAnn:  How do you incorporate spirituality into your teaching?

Dr. Jill: In the Suffering class (PC732 Spiritual and Theological Dimensions of Suffering), we start with a song as a musical response to suffering. I am intentional with incorporating a devotional practice such as a time of silence and framing each class in a theological way. We have two lenses: our social science lens and our religion/spirituality/theology lens. We are in a constant dialectic between them. I think the two different languages are not striving toward the same thing – except health and wholeness. They need to be held in relationship with one another; through this creative tension we find even greater insight. This is integration of spirituality into pastoral care.

JoAnn: Do you identify with the Jesuit Way of Being?

Dr. Jill: Yes, absolutely!  Cura personalis and making men and women for others is what we are trying to do – to create servants. Many service opportunities exist on campus such as CCSJ. This summer I received a Kolvenbach Grant to implement a spiritual/vocational discernment to the job readiness curriculum at Marian House – a program for women with histories of addiction and/or incarceration. Loyola is the most spiritually nurturing place where I have studied with invitations to attend to my relationship with God. That is huge!

JoAnn:  Was there anything that surprised you about Loyola?

Dr. Jill:  I appreciate our students’ maturity and the sacrifices they have made to be here. I have taught at other institutions where the humility of being a graduate student isn’t present. Humility and responsibility are important in graduate work. I had a professor once who said that only less than 1 percent of the population gets to have higher learning, so if you do not feel blessed every day, stop. I think they have an attitude of gratitude and a commitment that I have not seen in any other institution.

JoAnn:  You teach the Suffering Course, Spiritual and Pastoral Care, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, and what else?

Dr. Jill: I taught Crisis Intervention and this Fall I teach Group Spiritual Guidance.  I will teach Pastoral Care Professional Seminar next semester. That is the kind of work that really excites me; the dialogue between theory and practice, looking at a current ministry situation, turning to what we know about best practices and saying: what are we going to do?

JoAnn: What course do you enjoy teaching most?

Dr. Jill:  I love the Suffering class because it is constructive and fun. We are never going to find out why bad things happen to good people. It’s really fun to wrestle with that question; to dialogue with personal experience and what theologians have been saying for millennia. It’s an interfaith class, so we look at suffering from different faith perspectives. There’s a tragic-comedy element in it because we have to laugh in order to suffer; you need both sides of that coin. Also, we are partnering with Grass Roots here in Columbia. The students in the course work with women-parents and children there. It’s like that book we read this year — What shall we say? Evil, suffering, and the crisis of faith by Thomas G. Long –  that was saying solvitur ambulando: the answer to suffering is by walking. To take on that perspective is empowering in a paradoxical way and deeply spiritual because you give it all over to God. I am not going to fix the world’s suffering in a lifetime, but I take steps toward it.

Read more about Dr. Snodgrass.

Deb Rollison: When Spirit talked, she listened

Deb Rollison in her classroom

Barbara:          Deb, you are a graduate of the MS/PhD program – why did you choose Loyola and pastoral counseling?

Deb:    Since 2004, I had been engaged in the work of career counseling. As a career coach, I helped dozens of people find work that honored their skills, passions, and hopes. I worked with people once they were past the disruptive, unhappy parts of losing a job. As needed, I would refer distressed people to a counselor and sometimes see them after that counseling to help them find a new job. I wanted to apply a more holistic, broad spectrum approach to helping people, but I found myself mostly working on resume and interviewing skills.

I grew restless with the repetition.  Relying on my Catholic faith, I prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of vocations, and I asked: “Where is my own calling at this time in my life?” A friend, who is a career counselor, asked me: “Have you thought about pastoral counseling?” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but then I went to a national career development conference and listened to Richard Bolles (author of the well-know career guide, What Color Is Your Parachute?) talk about his own learning and journey following an illness. He said something to the effect, “If you hear something once, you might pay attention, but if you hear something twice, that may be Spirit talking.”

Amazing! That very morning I had had breakfast with another friend, who also suggested I consider pastoral counseling. This time, I listened. As soon as I got home, I got on the Internet, found Loyola, and knew that I had a clear calling. God led me to Loyola. I always wanted a PhD in clinical psychology, but I had to spend many years in between learning that I did not want to be a PhD, I wanted to have a PhD, so I could do important and caring things for people.

Barbara:          One of the important and caring things you do is teach here at Loyola. What is your teaching philosophy?

Deb:    My philosophy is to teach people to reach out to others in a larger way. I am your co-learner, I am alongside you, this is something we get to share. You teach me as much or more as I teach you. I feel very privileged and honored to be affiliate faculty. Teaching charges me up. I get “in the flow” and feel graced whenever I am in the classroom. What an adventure! What more important work is there than helping people create the work they were meant to do?

Barbara:          How do you incorporate spirituality into your curriculum?

Deb:    I ask students to start each class with a prayer or moment of silence. In each assignment, I invite students to reflect upon the pastoral dimensions of a theory, website, an interview, or reading. Because most of these are secular, students have to stretch their ideas and imaginations. For example, in career development, we work to relate each career theory in a pastoral way and how to adapt it in a pastoral context. I encourage students to add a spiritual assessment to every profession.

Barbara:          Speaking of professions, how can students use a pastoral counseling degree?

Deb:    I was fortunate to have Dr. Joe Ciarrocchi as my instructor in several classes. He said you can do so much with a pastoral counseling degree, and I so agree. Students learn skills that transfer in all job arenas. They get training in analytical thinking, the ability to write well, and interpersonal skills. The Loyola program enhances a student’s ability to reach out in all professions, blending technical skill with personal caring.

Time to Pull up My Big Girl Panties: Reflecting on Grief and Strength

“Time to Pull Up My Big Girl Panties”

 Yep—that’s what she said.  That’s exactly what she said. 

Who said it?

Dr. Kari O’Grady—a well respected pastoral counselor and scholar in the discipline of trauma and religious coping. 

What is she referring to?

She was quoting a former student and colleague in the Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Care (PCSC) Department at Loyola University Maryland.

This is where Dr. O’Grady’s turn of phrase becomes meaningful—almost beyond words. 

Dr. O’Grady was quoting the Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, an affiliate PCSC professor and graduate of Loyola during a eulogy. Only days before, Mary-Marguerite was in the church office with the administrative assistant of her parish when a participant in their ministry to the homeless fatally shot both women.  He fled the scene and killed himself.

Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn

In the moment that Dr. O’Grady repeated the proclamation that it was “time to pull up her big girl panties” she was making a double entendre.  In the context of Rev. Kohn’s funeral, Dr. O’Grady was honoring the life spirit of a former student and colleague who chose hope over despair and who chose courage and compassion in the midst of fear and loss.

She was quoting Mary-Marguerite’s conviction to begin a new path upon receiving her doctorate only three years before.  It was one of those miraculous moments the heart stumbles on at a funeral…when a sense of being embraced by the spirit of life and love of the newly departed envelops the bereaved in the midst of their shock and sense of loss.

It could easily be a reminder of all that the PCSC Department at Loyola has experienced recently.  Almost unbearably, Mary-Marguerite is the third PCSC faculty member at Loyola to die three years—and the third to die an untimely and tragic death.

First, Dr. Kelly Murray and her 7 year old daughter were killed by a falling tree while idling at an intersection in their family vehicle during a storm in 2009; and then, a little over a year later, the department chair, Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi died from multiple myeloma. 

All three of these folks lived lives filled with meaning and compassion which touched the hearts and lives of many, many people.  (Their obituaries are linked below.)  And all three were colleagues and friends of Dr. O’Grady and the members of the PCSC department.  Until Rev. Kohn’s death, I did not know the upheaval that the department had already experienced.

In that moment I learned the words in the Loyola online catalog describing the Pastoral Counseling program as holistic and integrated are not just there to describe positive sounding academic endeavors in the abstract.  They are accurate descriptors of the program.  They describe not only the courses but also the clinical education, the professors’ interweaving clinical work with quality teaching, the structure of individual courses, and the meaningful faculty and staff relationships with students.

We PCSC students are being challenged to learn, grow and transform our lives in the same way that we hope to accompany others on a path of meaning making and healing. 

This is precisely what Dr. O’Grady was doing for those of us in the congregation at Mary-Marguerite Kohn’s funeral…encouraging us to “pull up our big girl panties” and receive our own sadness, loss, fears, and wounds.  Because…as she well knows… the only way through hurt to healing, is through the hurt with compassion for self and others.  And the encouragement she gave to us to gird our hearts and move forward, just as she was doing for herself, was the most profound teaching moment and modeling of lifelong learning healing I have experienced as I continue to seek to understand the call to be a “pastoral counselor.”

Grace and Peace be with you—and everyone whose lives you touched…

Dr. Kelly Murray:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2009-06-29/news/0906280083_1_loyola-college-murray-psychology-professor

Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi:
Dr. Joseph Ciarrocchi

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-10-31/news/bs-md-ob-joseph-ciarrocchi-20101031_1_catholic-priest-psychology-educator

Rev. Dr. Mary-Marguerite Kohn:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-05-08/news/bs-md-ho-kohn-funeral-20120508_1_memorial-service-mix-tapes-doctorate

Why does CACREP matter? An interview with Dr. Oakes on accreditation, retirement, and excellence

Dr. OakesHave you heard that Dr. Oakes was retiring?  Not just yet!  We still need her expertise.  Loyola University is in line with the trend according to Business News Daily of employers who are hiring workers over 50 valuing their experience, credentials, and mentoring abilities.
Read on to find out why Dr. Oakes changed her retirement plans, and to uncover exactly what CACREP is and why it matters.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing my new boss in the Pastoral Counseling Department, Dr. K. Elizabeth Oakes (Kayliz).  I work with Dr. Oakes chiefly on our pursuit of CACREP re-accreditation through the self-study process. Below is an account of the interview highlights.
 
 
JoAnn: How long have you been with Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department?
Dr. Oakes: I joined the Loyola Pastoral Counseling faculty, July 1, 2002.  So, I am coming up on my 10th year.  I am coming from a background of clinical training as well as practice.  I am a graduate of this program. I graduated with my doctoral degree in 1999, and a CAS (Certificate of Advanced Study) in 1994.
(Dr. Oakes alluded to closing out her work here and retiring, so I asked her about it.)
JoAnn: That leads into my next question, I heard that you were retiring, but now I hear that you have taken on the role of Chair of the Pastoral Counseling Department?  Can you tell me how all that came about?
Dr. Oakes:  The Interim Chair.  I found out, as it were, (that I will serve) for a year in that role as a transitional object.   Are you familiar with that term?  I am using it inappropriately though, in clinical counseling it is not used that way.  (I am serving as Interim Chair) in order for the department to move between the loss of the previous chair due to illness, and to do a faculty search to get a chair brought into the department.

JoAnn: And does that have anything to do with CACREP – you staying on and changing your plans of retiring and taking on the role of Chair?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, it has everything to do with CACREP.  They would like the leadership of the department to have a background in Counseling Education.  And the previous interim chair had a background in English Literature, so we needed to change that.

JoAnn: So, not only are you functioning to help with CACREP accreditation, but your very credential helps with CACREP because you have what they are looking for in the leadership of the department?
Dr. Oakes: Yes, that is correct.  My degree is in Counseling Education.

JoAnn:  Ok, let’s back up a bit.  For those who may not know, what is CACREP exactly?
Dr. Oakes: Let’s start with the name itself.   It stands for Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.  This is the accrediting body for the American Counseling Association.  …  CACREP looks to provide standardization and consistency in the quality, content, and relevance of the curriculum of students who are in counselor education programs. 

It does this in several different ways, but the two main ones are CACREP:

  1. Looks at the content of the courses
  2. Examines/monitors how we prepare our students to become professionals in the field; seeing that the formation of the students’ professional identity is consistent with that of the field and then making sure that the teachers who teach are qualified and of a caliber that helps to meet the expectations of CACREP standards. 

 (When I asked Dr. Oakes why CACREP accreditation is important, she offered)

Dr Oakes: … it is more like CACREP is a watch dog, like AMA for physicians.  It gives you credibility to the public that is seeking your services.  If they see that you have been trained by a CACREP accredited program, they will be assured that you have had a quality of training in line with what the profession expects for its counselors to have. 

JoAnn: How did you become the CACREP expert for the department?
Dr Oakes: This past school year, 2011-2012, I was the MS Program Director, and the CACREP process makes sense to fall under the purview of whoever is in that position.  Also, I had training from CACREP to conduct the self-study. 

JoAnn:  So what does the PC Department do to keep its CACREP accreditation?
Dr. Oakes:  (She says as we share a laugh.) You would have good insight into that!  We conduct a CACREP accreditation self–study.  We investigate, review, analyze, and assess how well we have been doing as compared to the standards that CACREP has laid out for us.

Our self-study then is reviewed by CACREP officials.  Next, we have a visit from a CACREP team that samples what we have told them in the self-study for verification.  They write a review and analysis and make recommendations to the CACREP board of directors, and at that point the decision is made whether or not to grant the accreditation status. 

Once the board makes a decision to grant us re-accreditation, we could get an interim re-accreditation (2-3 year) or a full accreditation (8 years).

JoAnn: Is there anything else about CACREP that you think we need to know?
Dr. Oakes: Well, it is very important to have CACREP accreditation!  It really makes the department pay attention to the quality and character of the faculty that we hire, it makes us look closely at the admission strategies and the assessment of potential students and their ability to be successful in the program, and it contributes to the evolving professionalization of the field.

The Pastoral Counseling Department also holds university-wide Middle States accreditation, and at least 3 certifications: the National Board of Certified Counselors, the National Association of Pastoral Counselors, and International Registry of Counsellor Education Programs (IRCEP).