For 20 years now, members of the Life Direction Team (LDT) have been providing spiritual direction and one-to-one retreats in Singapore. Daniel Tay writes about how this ministry came to be.

IN 1982, ARCHBISHOP Emeritus Gregory Yong (then Archbishop of Singapore), Archbishop Nicholas Chia (then director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute) and the Conference of Major Superiors initiated a programme to train spiritual directors.

This was the period when Father John Reilly came to Singapore regularly to conduct retreats for religious congregations, recalled Sister Rosalia Yeo, FDCC, one of the core members of the LDT today.

He suggested forming a pool of resource persons here to minister to candidates of religious life or to baptized Catholics who desired a deeper relationship with God, Sister Rosalia added. The idea was picked up.

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Core team members of the Life Direction Team. Clockwise from bottomright: Sister Elizabeth Lim, rgs, Sister Theresa Koh, FMM, Sister Rosalia Yeo, FDCC, Celina Lin, Geraldine Szeto, Sister Florence Wong, FMDM, Brother Dominic Yeo-Koh, SG, and Sister Francisca Tan, rc. Sister Jean-Marie Andrews, FMDM (not present in photo) is also a core team member.

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Father John Reilly, SJ, and Sister Patricia Clouston, rc, from Australia, and Father Robert Rice, SJ, and Sister Linda Lizada, rc, from the Philippines, helped in the initial formation of spiritual directors for Singapore and Malaysia. Sister Linda Lizada continues to be involved with the present programmes conducted by the LDT in Singapore, despite being presently assigned to Rome.

By 1986, those who underwent the three-year formation programme felt ready to support one another and others in their ongoing spiritual formation. The LDT comprising laypersons and religious was then established to minister to parishes and religious congregations. Those who underwent the formation programme also continued to receive ongoing formation in the following two years.

In December 1992, Jesuit Father Gerard Hughes and his ecumenical team from England began a two-week programme for interested locals to become Prayer Guides. The team was specially chosen to encourage the LDT members to reach out to Christians of other denominations. This formation programme was initiated by the Conference of Religious, Singapore and the LDT.

By 1993, the Prayer Guides became independent of the LDT and called themselves The Sojourners' Companions. They continue to give prayer guidance to many parishes in both Singapore and Malaysia.

The LDT began a local two-year Spiritual Directors Formation Programme in October 1998, under the directorship of Sister Linda Lizada. There were 15 participants in the first group. Also in 1998, the LDT began to collaborate with the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling to conduct retreats in daily life during Lent and Advent. Special efforts were made to reach out to Mandarin-speaking retreatants as well.The programme has been well received in both languages.

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People who want to deepen their relationship with God seek spiritual direction with the help of persons experienced in spiritual direction. They can find the resources they need at LDT which offers retreats and spiritual accompaniment based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The LDT consists of about 40 spiritual directors and facilitators from the Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches. It collaborates with the Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling.

Requests from non-Catholic Christians prompted the LDT to begin a second Spiritual Directors Formation Programme in 2004 with facilitators comprising religious and laypersons from various cultural and Christian faith traditions in Singapore. This ecumenical move was inspired by the late Pope John Paul II, and continues under Pope Benedict XVI.

The LDT is currently planning its third batch of participants for the Certificate in Spiritual Direction, a course that emphasizes regular personal ongoing spiritual direction and supervision, rather than accumulation of theoretical knowledge and skills.

An April 2006 meeting between LDT's Sister Elizabeth Lim, rgs, and Dr Ekman Tam, the Director of Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre (TFSCC) in Hongkong, will lead to collaboration between the two organizations which will in turn take participants of the Certificate in Spiritual Direction course a step closer to the possibility of obtaining a D.Min from the Graduate Theological Foundation (Indiana, USA).

As part of its activities, LDT will be organizing five and eight-day retreats in September (see page 4), and a series of four conferences on spiritual direction in November entitled "Tending the Holy in our Lives".

Stay tuned to more updates in the CatholicNews!

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