Seminar Studies Psychology, Spirituality Crossroad

Ministers Learn New Answers to Old Problems

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ARLINGTON, Virginia, AUG. 17, 2010 ( A seminar on the intersection between psychology and spiritual growth gathered people involved in pastoral ministry worldwide to study new methods of caring for others.

Priests, religious, therapists and laity participated in the 4th annual «Pastoral Seminar on Psychology at the Service of Spiritual Growth,» sponsored by the Arlington-based Institute for the Psychological Sciences.

One participant, Chad Kritzberger, is a medical student at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He noted, «There is a lot of psychology that takes place in the field of medicine, particularly among patients who are struggling with illness, suffering, and dying.»

Kritzberger affirmed that «spirituality and religious background are integral to helping patients get through their suffering.»

The seminar presenters included two institute professors: Father Benedict Groeschel, author, psychologist, television host and co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal; and Paul Vitz, also an author of several books.

Kritzberger stated: «Doctor Vitz said something that I continue to think about: There are psychological problems that do not have psychological answers; rather they have spiritual answers.

«That has played out in my experience in which I have seen individuals struggle with severe psychological issues that ultimately require the Catholic faith to provide hope and give meaning to their struggles.»

Another participant, Sister Olga of the Eucharist, who runs campus ministry at Boston University, noted, «Working with college kids for all these years and especially here in a different culture, I felt I needed to learn more about the pastoral connection between spiritual direction and psychology.»

In particular, she observed that «a lot of women struggle with self-esteem and other psychological issues.»

«They have not accepted that they are made in the image of God, so being here at the pastoral seminar has been really helpful because we are not only taking the psychological perspective but also from a faith background,» the nun added.

Meeting points

Other participants included a husband and wife team who work in the Canadian prison system, seminary directors of formation, and laity from the Philippines, Trinidad, Cameroon and Uganda.

Father John Shimotsu, a Japanese convert who now serves as a U.S. Navy chaplain in Virginia Beach, noted that in his ministry «we do a lot of counseling with sailors and marines and sometimes with their spouses.»

«I think a lot of advances have been made in this field and there are meeting points between the two; psychology seems to be much more open to the insights of spirituality,» he said.

The priest noted, «This in an update from the pastoral psychology course I had in the seminary.»

Father Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, director of spiritual formation as well as the deacon formation program at the Athenaeum of Ohio, underlined the importance of «having access to a psychological institute that understands and promotes a Catholic vision of anthropology and the nature of the human person from the perspective of intellectual and psychological integrity, while the professors are personally convinced and committed to the Catholic faith.»

«As a seminary formation director, I can trust the insight and advice of the Institute for Psychological Sciences,» he said.

In the seminar, Father Groeschel addressed topics such as personality disorders and ways of growing spiritually. Vitz spoke about hatred and forgiveness, the importance of fatherhood, and the consequences of addictions.

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