Not all Catholics may be familiar with the idea of a spiritual director, but according to Bishop Emeritus Joseph Adamec, several Catholics, including members of the clergy and the laity, use them on a regular basis.
And it's not just Catholics who seek such guidance, wrote Woodeene Koenig-Bricker in an article for Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic weekly newspaper.
"Many religious traditions encourage the use of a spiritual guide to facilitate and assist believers on the path of spiritual growth,'' she wrote.
Deacon Gene Neral of St. John the Evangelist Church in Lakemont said he first sought out Father Sylvan Rouse in 1995. Neral said he felt he had "lost his spiritual direction.'' He's been going to see Rouse monthly ever since.
"Just to know there's somebody there you can call on, who'll sit and listen to you,'' Neral said. "He's really been God's gift to this [Altoona-Johnstown] diocese.''
People can talk to their parish priests, but the jobs involved in caring for a parish are very time-consuming. A spiritual director often sees people on a regular basis, which would take up a lot of time for a parish priest, Neral said.
Aside from that, some people or even clergy members might be reluctant to open up to a priest they're close to, such as their parish priest. In addition, deacons are forbidden from making confession to their parish priest and priests cannot make confession to the bishop, he said. Spiritual directors don't have those restraints.
"A spiritual director gets to know you from the inside out,'' Neral said