I can’t wait to introduce you all to the wise, yet down-to-earth, Linda Serepca…one of my first teachers from the Charlotte Spirituality Center. She’s an expert on Ignatian Spirituality and the Enneagram of Personality. When you meet Linda, you are immediately drawn in by her warm brown eyes and the sacred space she creates for you to share. Talking with her is like reconnecting with that old friend that you haven’t seen in years but who still understands you even without words.
Welcome Linda, thank you for agreeing to share some of your story with us today. Since you currently serve as both a Spiritual Director and the Executive Director at the Charlotte Spirituality Center, you are obviously passionate about Spiritual Direction. Could you tell us about how you first got into Spiritual Direction and what makes you so excited about it?
Well, after I did the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius back in 1999, I was trained by the Jesuits of my parish (in Raleigh) to lead people through them. I was also asked to be a small faith group facilitator which actually grew to be very large! I often found the questions in the booklets that we were using were too general, so I would rewrite them to get more to the heart of people’s experiences– I was doing spiritual direction and I didn’t know it!
When I moved to Charlotte in 2001, I began an Ignatian prayer group called “Women in the Word” which was a part of the Christian Mothers Group at St. Gabriel’s. We would meet every week to pray with the upcoming scripture readings Ignatian style, using guided imagery. I also facilitated 3 retreats a year for the mothers group. I did that for 12 years. Women began to come to me wanting direction. So I began meeting with them one on one. When my youngest child entered kindergarten, I figured it was time to get a bonafide credential for the ministry! At the time, the Charlotte Spirituality Center had just opened their doors. I was part of the first graduating class. I find it ironic that I am now the Executive Director and that we are getting ready to graduate our 11th co-hort!
You ask what makes me passionate about SD. I am VERY PASSIONATE about it!
There is nothing in the world that is more liberating to the soul than this discipline. I think everyone should have a director!
It is always a safe space for people to explore and discover a deeper relationship with God AND self. We like to say everything belongs in SD because ALL of life affects our spirit! SO we talk about everything.
For some people, SD can help people find or affirm their faith and values, sometimes even their inner voice (where God dwells). For others, it’s a way to wrestle out what does and does not “fit” anymore in their belief systems. Sometimes folks need a director to “direct their attention” to what God is doing or how they are being invited to something (discernment). We serve as a witness in that way. I feel very blessed that God has given me the ability to listen lovingly with 3D ears! What I mean by that is when someone is speaking, I can hear which things carry the most energy so that we can drill deeper there.
People are not used to getting into their EXPERIENCE of the Holy, to linger there, to marvel, to discover this incredible lover they are connected to. It’s very cool to see that happen. We sit with people in all seasons of life- people who are hungry, wounded, grieving, joy-filled, lonely, curious, searching, celebrating, processing… I think it is a very creative ministry which makes it always new and exciting. But I think my most favorite part of spiritual direction is that we never know what fruit is going to come out of a session! The Holy Spirit is FULL of surprises. I am always amazed at how much happens in an hour!
As the Executive Director, you sometimes help pair those seeking a Spiritual Director with a Spiritual Director from the Center. What do you think is the most important thing to look for when finding the right fit between a Spiritual Director and a Directee? What do Directees need to know before meeting with a Spiritual Director for the first time?
I always ask people what is most important to them and what they are seeking. This helps me be a good matchmaker since I know the unique skills and areas of expertise each director at the Center has. The thing that is MOST important is comfort for the directee so that they can say ANYTHING. People need to feel safe. So for some, gender, age, faith tradition matters because that is their comfort zone. For others, those things do not matter but they may want someone who understands a particular discipline (like mindfulness or the enneagram, etc) Directees should always have a preliminary conversation on the phone before meeting to make sure the fit feels right. Honestly, I recommend interviewing a couple of directors. I myself just got someone new and it took me 5 interviews to find the right person! A directee should know that a good director will check in every so often to make sure things are “still working for them.” Another important thing a directee should realize is that we directors are not the gurus in the room! THEY ARE because they are the ones having their own unique experiences of the Divine! We just ask creative questions to bring that awareness to the surface. Lastly, the true director in the room is the Holy Spirit. So acknowledging that there are 3 of us in the room, what can go wrong? 🙂
One of my favorite classes that I took with you at the Center was learning about the Enneagram. How has learning the Enneagram helped you or the people you work with to find greater spiritual freedom? Could you recommend any resources for those who are looking to learn more about the Enneagram?
Oh wow, how much time do you have?? LOL. The enneagram is an incredible tool that reveals when and where we are free (being our truest selves) or unfree (acting out of a place of fear or pain). Everyone has gifts and wounds. The enneagram tells us that there are 9 basic gifts and wounds when it all comes down to it. So very early in life, we choose a way to make people love us because we became wounded somehow. Then it becomes a pattern that works– until it doesn’t anymore — and that is when the enneagram becomes useful for transformation. We realize we don’t need to cling to the old ways of perceiving, thinking, or acting out of fear. The enneagram invites us to spot those unfree moments and inspires us to notice the place within where there is gift and love of self –which is really all about putting aspects of God out into the world.
As for my own experience, once I learned about my type (4), I was floored! I was reading this description and thought, “Did these people climb into my head and heart to know my motivations??” It did help me greatly to see why I do what I do and which things are healthy and life-giving and which are manipulative or a source of my suffering. I love to work with people who either know or seek to learn about the enneagram because it is a great way to come to spiritually know yourself better. I am a big Enneagram Institute fan (Riso/Hudson) but for a beginner, Richard Rohr is easy to read or listen to. We have a director at the CSC who does free enneagram consults — you can find Carol Hassell on our website.
Lastly, I want to talk with you about the book that you wrote, Praying the 12 Steps With Jesus: A Journey Back to Wholeness. What inspired you to write this book? And what has been your experience with the 12 step program?
SO to dove tail on the enneagram answer, I am a type 4 which is known as “the artist.” Our gift is creativity. I am not a typical artist except by the way I see and shape all of life. I know how to craft retreats well — how to pair things that guide people into the deep places. I did the 12 steps in AA before I did the Spiritual Exercises and I remember thinking- wow- the 4 phases of the Spiritual Exercises align really well with the Steps! You are invited to look at what you have done wrong, how you are loveable still, how you are invited to a new life of mission and then to manifest God’s love (or goodness) in the world. Enneagram type Fours are also big on doing things people have never done before, so I researched and was surprised to learn that no one had ever put the 12 steps and Ignatian prayer together! That is actually odd, as Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA, had an Ignatian spiritual director! I had the idea for years and finally got the time and space to create it in 2015.
It’s written for anyone really because we are all addicted to something! Even our enneagram compulsions are actually addictions so they all go well together. The 12 step program got me honest (as the enneagram does- hmmm- maybe that is my next retreat book!) about when I operate out of fear or love. Fear makes you want to numb out. I think everyone could benefit from the 12 step program. It teaches you tools on how to handle life on life’s terms.
For those unfamiliar with Ignatian Spirituality, could you tell more about how you see the 12 Step program aligning with Ignatian practices?
Sure. So for one, Ignatian Spirituality is big on discernment— noticing which spirit is influencing us at any given time– a spirit of God or a spirit of darkness. In the 12 steps, people in recovery take a daily inventory to acknowledge when they loved well (inspired by the spirit of God) and when their”character defects” came out (inspired by a spirit not of God). Then we pray we can show up better tomorrow. This is very similar to the Ignatian Daily Examen which is just another way to notice where you experienced God that day and how you responded– in kind or turning away somehow? They are really very similar.
In Ignatian prayer, the seeker is invited to place themselves into the scripture story and experience it as a real life event. I say it’s like watching a movie in your head while employing all of your senses in this living story (what do you see, feel, smell, taste, hear?) and then noticing how your heart is moved. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to match a Gospel story that exemplifies the truth of each Step and invite people to sink into it via Ignatian prayer? It really works well. Another thing both Ignatian spirituality and the 12 steps have in common is that they rely completely on the grace of God. We surrender and God takes over.
Praying 12 Steps with Jesus can be found on Amazon. It can be done individually or as a group. Anyone interested in spiritual direction or other things going on at the CSC can go to www.charlottespiritualitycenter.org Before Covid, we hosted different workshops on mindfulness, writing, icon gazing, dreams, group spiritual direction, etc. Hopefully we can get back to those things soon! We also offer spiritual formation classes and SD training. Personally, I can be reached at email@example.com or at the CSC website.
Thanks Julie for giving me the opportunity to talk about things I love for your blog!