Credit points


Campus offering

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Teaching organisation


This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spiritual Direction should develop knowledge and skills in this discipline and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their professional roles. This unit will involve guiding retreatants through EITHER i) a three, six, or eight-day individual silent retreat, under individual and group supervision, OR ii) a three, six, or eight-week individual retreat in daily life, under individual and group supervision. Since retreat direction — as an art rather than a science — is learned by doing, a significant proportion of this unit will be devoted to the actual practice of giving an individually guided retreat in the Ignatian tradition. The student will meet with his or her supervisor for individual or group supervision, either face to face or virtually. This unit aims to help students become competent directors of retreats in the Ignatian tradition, particularly, but not exclusively, according to the 18th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss the role and stance of an Ignatian retreat director, particularly as set out by Ignatius in the Annotations to the Spiritual Exercises (GA1; GA9);

LO2 - Evaluate their capacity to adapt the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises to particular Exercitants (GA1; GA9);

LO3 - Apply the Rules for Discernment of Spirits and identify the ways in which ‘spirits’ work in an Exercitant (GA1);

LO4 - Articulate and evaluate the decision-making process outlined in the Spiritual Exercises (GA1; GA9);

LO5 - Show a discerned awareness of his or her gifts and abilities and an acceptance of his or her limits as an Ignatian retreat director, as evidenced in self-acceptance and non-defensiveness in supervision (GA1; GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

·       Giving a retreat;

·       Distinctive aspects of Ignatian Spiritual Direction;

·       Reflexive practice as a Spiritual Director.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

THSP606 will be delivered in multi-mode, that is, in various combinations of face to face and mediated learning environments, utilising strategies which may include:

·       Self-directed activities (such as completing scaffolded reading tasks or web-based exercises) which enable each student to build a detailed understanding of a topic;

·       Small-group tasks and activities (such as contributing to discussion forums or undertaking peer review) which enable students to test, critique, expand and evaluate their understandings;

·       Plenary seminars and webinars which enable students to link their understandings with larger frameworks of knowledge and alternative interpretations of ideas;

·       Practical or fieldwork activities which enable students to rehearse skills necessary to the discipline and to be mentored in that practice;

·       Critically reflective activities (such as a guided Examen or private journal-writing) which assist students to learn reflexively, that is, to identify their affective responses to the learning and to integrate their learning with action.

The unit is delivered with the expectation that participants are adult learners, intrinsically motivated and prepared to reflect critically on issues as well as on their own learning and perspectives.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass. All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and spiritual practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1. Retreat Journal (3000 words equivalent) documenting the student’s experience of giving the retreat for the purpose of intense critical reflection with the supervisor. This task is designed to enable students to practise documenting retreat experiences and to reflect critically on their own gifts and limitations as retreat directors.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA9

2. Integrative Paper (3000 words) incorporating critical reflection on supervised praxis. This task is designed to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their integration of theory and practice in their development as spiritual directors.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA9

Representative texts and references

Barry, William A. Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God: A Theological Inquiry. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2004.

Conroy, Maureen. The Discerning Heart: Discovering a Personal God. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1993.

Dyckman, Katherine. et al. The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001.

Dyckman, Katherine, and L. Patrick Carroll. Inviting the Mystic, Supporting the Prophet: An Introduction to Spiritual Direction. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1981.

Fleming, David L. Draw Me into your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises. St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.

Gallagher, Timothy. An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer: Scriptural Reflections According to the Spiritual Exercises. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2008.

Marsh, Robert R. “Receiving and Rejecting: On Finding a Way in Spiritual Direction.” The Way 45, No.1 (2006): 7-21.

Marsh, Robert R. “Imagining Ignatian spiritual direction.” The Way 48, No.3 (2009): 27-42.

O’Brien, Kevin. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 2011.

Schemel, George & J. Roemer. Beyond Individuation to Discipleship: A Directory for those who give the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Scranton, PA: Institute for Contemporary Spirituality, University of Scranton, 2000.

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