A simple question posed to Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann on a trip to Rome in 2009 planted the seed for what has become the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program, one of the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s leading faith formation and evangelization programs. The most recent cohort, or group, to be certified included three individuals from the Salina Diocese who are now ready to serve their parishes and diocesan community as Spiritual Mentors. Katie Allen and Anita Horeneck, parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Colby, and Jim Schartz, parishioner of St. Andrew parish in Abilene completed the two-year long program offered through the Holy Family School of Faith. They received their certificates from Archbishop Naumann in January. Jim’s wife Lisa is also a certified Spiritual Mentor, having completed the program in 2017.
According to Cari Hillyer, the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program Director, the program serves multiple purposes. “It’s more than just formation,” she said. “The program is a call to your baptismal vow to evangelize. We equip people to walk with others on their faith journey.” Hillyer said the program also can help alleviate some of the overflow needs of priests who are sought out for ongoing spiritual support but who may be stretched thin with other responsibilities. “Upon completion of the program, we send the participants back to their parishes and we send a packet of information to their pastors stating, ‘these people are ready to be of service,’ ” Hillyer added. Participants of the program come from a variety of backgrounds and different levels of education. During the two-year process, each cohort attends four in-residence week-long sessions, designed as intensive retreats. Each of those sessions covers a different topic: prayer, liturgy and the sacraments, virtue and the moral life, and discernment and practicum. Between each in-residence session, participants complete two distance learning courses as well as homework that brings all the session elements together.
For Jim Schartz, the two years spent in this formation process was life-changing. “It uncovered things about the faith I didn’t know existed,” he said. “By our baptism, we are called to be saints and we go lightly through this as kids, but a lot of us are stuck as 16-year-olds in our faith. This process is about moving past that point and growing in your faith, learning more about your faith. “Spiritual mentorship is amazing,” Schartz added. “It is the best kept secret of the Catholic faith!” Allen became interested in the Catholic Spiritual Mentorship Program when she worked for the Archdiocese of Kansas City after college. Her spiritual director had completed the program which intrigued Allen. Now, having completed the process herself, she is eager to offer spiritual mentorship to others. “We [Spiritual Mentors] guide the people we work with in a relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said. “We can teach them how to pray, how to grow in virtue, and we can offer tools for discernment, but we also pray with the person. As Spiritual Mentors, we listen to people and help them see their deepest needs and desires [in light of their faith] and then help them get those fed.” Hillyer said the benefits of spiritual mentorship in a diocese are numerous as are the benefits to people who go through the formal program. “There are lots of ‘cradle’ Catholics who don’t know the fullness and beauty of the Catholic faith,” she said. “We see a renewed love of the sacraments and a desire to share those graces with others.”