Genesis of the Project. The IGRs were started in Lusaka in 1999. At that time priests and sisters who were trained spiritual directors accompanied the retreatants. It soon became clear from the numbers of parishioners registering to make these retreats that we needed to think about how we could train the laity to do this ministry since there were not enough spiritual directors available. From 2001-2002 A full time Spiritual Directors training course was run for eight sisters, one priest and six lay men and women. At the completion it was decided to change this course into a shorter simpler version given only on weekends and specifically aimed to train people to accompany retreatants through a week of Individually Guided Prayer using scripture.
In 2004 the first group of 12 Prayer Companions were commissioned. Since then the numbers of parishes asking for retreats has constantly grown and we have continued to give the course each year except for one. We have now trained over 110 Prayer Companions most of whom are still active with the exception of some who have moved away from the area, become sick or died.
The Late Joseph Medardo Cardinal Mazombwe, gave his full support and encouragement to the setting up of this course and always showed great interest in its development and the growth of the Retreats. His Grace said that the time had come in the development of the Catholic Church in Zambia to help people to deepen their personal prayer. He therefore desired that the retreats continue and spread out into more and more Parishes. His successor Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu likewise gave his blessing and encouragement to this programme.
What is to be achieved: The training local Zambians as Prayer Guides in order to provide Individually Guided Retreats to Parishioners of Catholic Churches in Zambia.
What changes are to be effected? The changes to be effected are within the students themselves. Our three goals are that by the completion of the course the participants will have: -
- Grown in self-knowledge, human development, prayer and their personal relationship with God.
- Formed a basic understanding of the spiritual life, and scripture as used for prayer.
- Begun to acquire the skills and art of spiritual accompaniment.
Who is involved in the achieving of the objective? The people most involved in the achieving of the objective are the following three core team members:
Sr Ann Kelly FMDM - Course Director, Sr Leonor Torres CMS - Assistant Director, and Fr Joseph Hayes SJ. Other lecturers and facilitators contribute to the process.
What is involved in the achieving of the project? The project is achieved by following the plan of the course content which is outlined below.
Who will check whether the objective has been achieved and how? The Core team has the first responsibility to determine for each student whether or not they are ready to be commissioned for this ministry. They have the support and backing of a Board of Management which meets three times a year. The Core Team is accountable to the Board which oversees the Programme and approves changes that might need to be made.
Planning Pastoral Programmes
Themes and content
Course Content Topics taught
Role and identity of a prayer companion.
Personal prayer and discernment.
Scripture study as needed for prayer accompaniment.
Basic human development.
African context in prayer accompaniment.
Sharing of personal faith stories.
Formation of Conscience.
Social dimension of the Gospel.
Practical experiences as follows:
1) An experiential knowledge of the dynamic of an eight days directed retreat.
- Conducting “Individually Guided Retreats in Daily Life”, in Parishes accompanied by personal supervision.
- An apostolic experience of working in a place where there are people most in need, e.g. a hospice where most people suffer from HIV/AIDS followed by theological reflection which draw the participants to a disposition of heart that is deeply compassionate for the people who suffer.
Structures and Methods
An adult education model is used in which the participants are required to digest material given through personal reading and reflection and written responses. This is the basis of seminar type learning.
Lectures are given, sometimes using power point presentations. Personal faith sharing takes place. Regular opportunities for practicing accompaniment skills in the class situation with the rest of the class observing and critiquing.