Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions for All Curricula

  1. What courses are available?

    You can find a listing of courses for the upcoming semester here

  2. Is there a residency requirement?
    There is no residency requirement.  For the Spiritual Direction program there is an option to take the two central courses (IMSD 601 and IMSD 602) in an intense 5-day format on location at St. Vincent Seminary.  We encourage this because of the retreat atmosphere and the opportunity to meet with and discuss the topics with other students.  However, it is also possible to take these courses online in the fall and spring semesters.  We also offer some special in-person opportunities like a summer course in Rome but this is not required.  For the upcoming Catechetics certificate, the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 1 Formation must always be completed in-person and not online.

  3. Can I transfer credits?
    With approval from the Academic Dean, a maximum of 25% of the credits for the program may be transferred from other graduate schools. 

    For Level 1 participation in the Spiritual Direction program, credit transfer can be worked out on an individual basis with the Director of the program.

  4. Is there financial aid available?
    Thanks to our generous benefactors we are able to offer financial aid on a case-by-case basis.  For more information, consult the Financial Aid page.

  5. Can I just take one course?
    One tagline for the Institute for Ministry Formation is that we share the treasures of Saint Vincent Seminary with the rest of the Church.  We are very happy for anyone who wants to take a course for their ongoing formation.  We still ask that you complete the application and registration so that we can provide you with all the supports of our Institute, but you do not need to complete a full program if you apply.  We also offer various ongoing formation classes, conferences and retreats that are not for academic credit.  You can see past offerings here.

  6. What can I do with a certificate?

    A certificate is a credential that indicates you have completed a program of studies.  A certificate (or letter of completion) in Spiritual Direction should be adequate for your parish or Diocese to begin offering spiritual direction in a formal way.  This depends on the parish and the Diocese and each circumstance will be different, but we designed our program under consultation with the Saint Vincent Seminary Board of Regents (our constituent bishops) and they indicated their acceptance  for spiritual directors who were trained in our program. It is worth exploring your own parish or diocesan situation in advance but contacting your pastor and/or the diocesan Director of Religious Education or equivalent. Other certificates can provide credibility for ministry in the Church.  A combination of the Catholic Theology certificate with any other certificate (when both are taken for academic credit or “Level 2”) can earn a Master’s degree.  See our program descriptions here for more details.

  7. Can I audit a course?
    Absolutely! Just indicate “audit” or “Level 1” on your application and registration.  The cost is half-price.

  8. What am I missing out on if I “just audit” a course?

    Both Level 1 (audit) and Level 2 (credit) expect full participation from the student, including live classes and discussion posts, but at Level 1 you will not have the obligation for exams and papers which is required at Level 2. 

  9. How much do courses cost?
    It depends on the number of credits that the course is offered for. It depends on whether the course is taken at Level 1 or Level 2.  Also, we charge a single fee per semester, so it depends on how many courses you are taking in a given semester.  For example, taking simply the IMSD601 course (SD1) at Level 1 participation would cost $670 + $150 in fees = $820. See our tuition and fees page for more details.

Questions specific to the Spiritual Direction Program

  1. What are the requirements for the directed retreat?

    The Spiritual Direction program requires an 8-day directed retreat (or the full Ignatian 19th Annotation). This serves several purposes.  Firstly it helps to consolidate the spiritual formation that is provided throughout the curriculum and helps that to take root in the spiritual life of the individual student.  Secondly, it serves to deepen the student’s prayer life in a significant way. A spiritual director must have a deep and rich, personal relationship with Jesus and a well-formed spiritual life.  Thirdly, the retreat provides an experience of a model that the student, as a future spiritual director, may be able to offer to others, namely the guidance of daily spiritual direction for an intensive retreat experience.  To serve these purposes, the retreat must meet the following criteria to fulfill the Spiritual Direction program requirement: (1) it must take place in a retreat environment marked by silence and reflection, optimally with the opportunity for daily Mass.  It need not be strictly silent the entire time, but silence and conduciveness to prayer and reflection must be a defining characteristic of the environment; (2) there must be daily spiritual direction with an experienced spiritual director; (3) it must be 8 days meaning that it must consist of at least seven overnights and spiritual direction must occur at least on the six middle days of the retreat.  A typical format would be four prayer periods a day, each lasting one hour, in addition to Mass and other times of spiritual reading and reflection.  Typically the spiritual director assigns scriptures for each of the prayer periods and the spiritual direction meetings center around how God was speaking in those prayer periods.  There can be a standard progression of assigned scriptures following the Ignatian patterns derived from the 30-day retreat.  None of this structure of prayer periods and scriptures is strictly necessary, however, as long as the spiritual director and the retreatant agree on how to proceed.  Before registering for this retreat, the student must check with the Director of the IMF Spiritual Direction program to show that the format of the intended retreat meets these criteria.  There are many options for retreat centers and retreat directors and it is the responsibility of the student to arrange the retreat.  Some recommended options include St. Joseph Retreat Center in Milton, MA, Our Lady of Divine Providence Retreat center in Clearwater, FL, Broomtree Retreat and Conference Center in Broomtree, SD, The Joseph and Mary Retreat House in Mundelein, IL, and Mount Angel Abbey in Portland, OR, to name a few.

  2. What should I expect for Practica Courses (IMSD-697 & 698)?

    IMSD697 – Practicum in Spiritual Direction I – 1 credit

    This practicum enables students to learn and practice the art of spiritual direction under the supervision of a mentor.  The mentor will meet regularly with students, one on one, to shape their practice of spiritual direction.  The practicum also helps students to grow in self-awareness, sensitivity, compassion, and understanding, while being challenged to reflect on their faith understanding, theology, and experiences in relation to those to whom they minister.  Evaluation will consist of verbatims, oral examination and written reflections at the discretion of the mentor.  A learning agreement which articulates the goals and scope of the practicum is developed among the student, the supervisor, and the Director of the Spiritual Direction program.

    The student will be expected to meet with at least 2 directees every two weeks and with a mentor at least once per month. The student is responsible for recruiting directees and the mentor will be assigned by the Director of the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program.

    Prerequisites:  IMSD 601, IMSD 602, IMSD 696 and at least 6 additional credits in the spiritual direction program

    IMSD698 – Practicum in Spiritual Direction II – 1 credit

    This practicum enables students to grow in their practice of the art of spiritual direction under the supervision of a mentor.  Building on lessons learned in IMSD 697, the student will meet with additional spiritual directees to expand their experience of offering spiritual direction.  The mentor will meet regularly with students, one on one, to shape their practice of spiritual direction.  The practicum also helps students to grow in self-awareness, sensitivity, compassion, and understanding, while being challenged to reflect on their faith understanding, theology, and experiences in relation to those to whom they minister.  Evaluation will consist of verbatims, oral examination and written reflections at the discretion of the mentor.  A learning agreement which articulates the goals and scope of the practicum is developed among the student, the supervisor, and the Director of the Spiritual Direction program.

    The student will be expected to meet with at least 2 directees every two weeks and with a mentor at least once per month. The student is responsible for recruiting directees and the mentor will be assigned by the Director of the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program.

    Prerequisites:  IMSD 697
  3. What is the Readiness for Ministry Exam (IMSD 699)?

    The IMF Spiritual Direction program requires a final Readiness for Ministry Exam.  This is the final requirement of the program and so this Exam can only be taken after all the other requirements of the program have been completed and the student should register for this exam in the final semester of their program.

    The exam consists of three scenarios drawn at random which a student must answer before a panel including the Director of the Spiritual Direction program and one or more professors in the program.  They present some typical spiritual direction scenarios and the student is expected to describe his or her thought process for how to approach those scenarios.  Each question lasts approximately ten minutes and so the exam should require at most a half hour.

    The exam is held over Zoom and the timing of the exam is scheduled individually at a time that is mutually agreeable to both the student and the Director of the Spiritual Direction Program.