Brian O’Leary describes the role of the All Ireland Spiritual Guidance Association, an organisation which represents the interests of spiritual guides or directors throughout the country. Nine Jesuits were among the founders of AISGA.
The acronym AISGA stands for the All Ireland Spiritual Guidance Association. This professional body is probably not well known outside of its own membership. Neither is the continuing Jesuit involvement from its initiation.
The first steps that led to the setting up of AISGA were taken in October 2001. This was in response to a perceived need among spiritual guides/directors for an organisation that would represent their interests and be supportive of their work. Other practitioners such as counsellors and psychotherapists already had such professional bodies in place.
The small originating group then invited thirty-eight experienced spiritual guides/directors to become founder members to bring forward the move towards a formal association. It was agreed that this would be representative of a variety of traditions of spiritual guidance/direction, be ecumenical in membership, and cover the whole of Ireland. Among these founder members were nine Jesuits.
Four committees were then set up to further the process. These were Ethics, Credentialing and Accreditation, Events Planning, and Registration. There was a lot of hard, detailed work to be undertaken, especially in the first two committees. Again there was Jesuit involvement. Eventually AISGA was ready for its launch which took place on 27 April 2002 in Milltown Park.
Patronage for the launch was received from the Milltown Institute, All Hallows, CORI, and the University of Wales, Lampeter.
Responsibility for the continuing growth and development of AISGA lies with the Board of Directors. Laurence Murphy, S.J., who had served on this Board from the beginning, was recently replaced by Brendan Comerford, S.J.
Among its activities AISGA organises conferences and training programmes to foster and develop the ministry of spiritual guidance/direction. It has invited internationally known speakers to share their experience and wisdom.
The Code of Ethics expresses the aspirational aims of the Association as well as providing rules of professional conduct and best practice. It aims to guarantee the integrity of the ministry.
It should be noted that Associate Membership is open to anyone with an interest in spiritual guidance/direction. AISGA’s website is www.aisga.org and enquiries may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The participation of Jesuits in AISGA should cause no surprise. Spiritual guidance/direction has been a core ministry of the Society of Jesus from the days of Saint Ignatius. It might well be described as the quintessential Jesuit ministry. Based on the experience of the Spiritual Exercises there is a distinctive Ignatian approach to spiritual guidance/direction that contributes to the richness of the broader tradition within the Church. A growing body of lay men and women who are working as spiritual guides/directors now shares this Ignatian approach.
Aware of the needs of the many people who seek spiritual guidance/direction today Manresa House (Dollymount, Dublin 3) offers a two-year training programme in spiritual guidance/direction. This is now accredited by the Milltown Institute. Further information is available from email@example.com.
To get a more comprehensive and worldwide view of the ministry of spiritual guidance/direction an organisation worth exploring is Spiritual Directors International. It has a number of Irish members. See its website at www.sdiworld.org. Links have been established between SDI and AISGA.