Wichita priest to bring new spiritual direction to the diocesan Spiritual Life Center


By Fred Solis

God’s voice isn’t always easy to recognize, especially when it comes in a whisper, or in the form of silence. That’s when a second, trained pair of ears, like Father Kent Hemberger’s, can help.

Prior to his assignment as the Spiritual Life Center’s new director, Fr. Hemberger completed a nine-month sabbatical in Guelph, Canada, immersed in a program about providing spiritual direction. “I’m able to use what I learned to give individually directed retreats,” he said.

Directed retreats for individuals follow Ignatian spirituality, which prefers to “Let God deal directly with the retreatant.” The compiler of the Spiritual Exercises, and a gifted spiritual director, St. Ignatius has been described by Pope Benedict XVI as being above all a man of God, who gave the first place of his life to God, and a man of profound prayer.

“You see what the person comes to the retreat with and what they desire, and then allow the Holy Spirit to direct the retreat,” he said. “I meet with them every day and help them discern what God is trying to tell them in their personal lives. From what I hear, I then give suggestions for their prayer that day.

“That’s the beauty of this kind of retreat,” he continued. “Instead of me giving them my insights, God does it. God speaks and they listen, and they grow stronger in their faith, which is the point of their retreat.”

Witnessing people undergoing spiritual growth in their relationship with God has an energizing effect on Fr. Hemberger. “It’s a blessing when you can see that growth, because it’s very personal,” he said.

The Spiritual Life Center will continue to offer educational workshops and other kinds of retreats as well. The individually directed retreats, he said, are meant to build on the programs that are already offered at the center.

“I’m looking to see how the mission of the Spiritual Life Center fits with the mission of the diocese, how we can help parishes, and how we can work with other ministries and collaborate with different offices,” Fr. Hemberger said. “I would like to offer a wide variety of programs to meet a wide variety of needs; programs that touch the heart as well as the head.”

For example, Fr. Hemberger sees the Spiritual Life Center as a place where Catholics that have a great interest and knowledge in their faith can come and take a deeper step in their relationship with God and their understanding of their faith. He also sees it as a location for people from the parishes to receive training that they can take back to their parishes.

Another need the center can fill is holding retreats that meet specific needs, such as grief issues, that individual parishes may not be able to offer because participation at the parish level would be too low to warrant a program.

The focal points of the Spiritual Life Center are its two chapels, The Chapel of Mary, the First Disciple and The Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Facilities include: six conference rooms capable of hosting large and small groups; individual bedrooms with private baths to host as many as 116 overnight guests; and a dining room.

The center was designed so that different groups can attend at the same time and still have their own space.

“This facility is a blessing,” Fr. Hemberger said. “It’s beautiful and well designed. Few dioceses have a place as nice as this.”
Printed with permission from the Catholic Advance, newspaper from the Diocese of Wichita. 

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