Spiritual Direction Formation Programme 2024-2026

(Online and In Person)

“A spiritual director who intimately knows and loves Christ can help the directee to achieve that same love and intimacy”
Pope Benedict XVI


The Spiritual Direction Formation Programme (Carmelite Tradition) – which has been running since September 2019 – builds on an interpretation of the experience of journeying towards intimacy with God as expressed in the life of the Carmelite saints and deriving principles from this for the growth and flourishing of the spiritual life. The programme, therefore, has its foundation in the spirituality of the Carmelite tradition. At the heart of this spirituality is a prayerful listening and response to the God who befriends us and an expression of this experience through a life of contemplative awareness and friendship with one another. One does not need to be a Carmelite or even know much of Carmelite spirituality to be part of the Programme.

There are four five-day intensives in residence for the two-year Spiritual Direction Formation Programme (two intensives per year). The remainder are 12 online sessions (6 per year). The online programme is delivered in the form of real-time video conferencing and a phased release of reading materials and videos with tutorial support made available through the CACS learning platform.

Our residentials are held in three different centres depending on the choice of course participants. These are: Carmelite Priory, Oxford, UK, the Benedictine Centre of St Paul’s Monastery, Minnesota, USA and Mazzanti House, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya.

Our Team

Alexander Ezechukwu, OCD
Fr. Alex is a Carmelite priest and serves as the prior of the Carmelite community at Boars Hill, Oxford. Fr Alex is a trained spiritual director with many years of pastoral experience in guidance in the spiritual life. He holds a Licence in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. Fr Alex also serves as the Director of CACS.

Candida Kirkpatrick, OCDS
Candida is the North American Coordinator for CACS.
Candida is blessed to be a wife and a mother of two wonderful adult children living in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been a vowed member of the OCDS Community of St. Joseph in Phoenix for almost 20 years, and works as a spiritual director, retreat master, speaker and blogger of Carmel in the Desert for those seeking closer union with Christ in the Carmelite spiritual tradition.

Audrey Hamilton
Audrey Hamilton is Course Director for the Spiritual Direction Formation Programme (SDFP). Formed in both the Ignatian and Carmelite traditions, she has been working in the field of spirituality for over fifteen years. Audrey holds a Masters Degree in Christian Spirituality from Heythrop College (University of London) and was part of the 2019 cohort of the Spiritual Direction programme offered by CACS. Upon graduation, she joined the programme’s accompaniment team, supporting others in their formation for the ministry of spiritual accompaniment. Audrey also assists the friars at Boars Hill with various spirituality programmes.

For any inquiries from the US please contact Candida:
+1 (909) 913-6


To form spiritual directors within the Carmelite lived tradition. The model is distinctive as its emphasis is not only on having Carmelite spirituality as its foundation but in its aim to prepare candidates to undertake spiritual direction both on a one-to-one or group basis but as importantly, to be a guiding and prayerful presence in the world. They achieve this through being witnesses of the spirit of Carmel as a presence in the world in their everyday lived experience. The course may also enhance the ability in spiritual Direction of those candidates that apply who currently hold accredited qualifications or experience in other traditions of Spiritual direction or formation.

Aims of the Course

  • To form Carmelite spiritual directors in a two-year course
  • To use diverse learning methods including distance learning and internet technology for the delivery of the course
  • To encourage an experience of living and praying in a Carmelite community
  • To encourage self-awareness and the flourishing of the spiritual life through deepening one’s intimacy with God
  • To empower candidates in developing the skills needed in spiritual direction and the ability to walk with others as they journey through life
  • To broaden an understanding of the wider context of biblical spirituality and theology, the history and practice of Christian spiritual direction
  • To encourage best practice and self-care in spiritual direction through an understanding of proper ethical guidelines, the importance of reflective practice and supervision.

Learning Outcomes

  • All graduates of the course will have the confidence, knowledge and skills to act as spiritual directors within the lived Carmelite tradition.
  • An understanding that to act as a Carmelite spiritual director means that how you live and influence people by your presence in your everyday life is as important as the formal contracting to undertake spiritual direction with an individual or a group.
  • An understanding of the history, nature, purpose and fundamental principles of the Art of Spiritual Direction
  • An understanding of how Spiritual Direction is distinctive from Counselling, mentoring and coaching and what elements they share.
  • A deep understanding of the Call to Carmel as a call to a spiritual home and to a life dedicated to allowing God’s gift of prayer to enrich candidates, the wider Church and the world at large.
  • A deepening contemplative awareness – closing the gap between their intellectual understanding and their lived experience of – being, seeing, listening and perceiving reality in an integrated and holistic fashion
  • An understanding of prayer within the Teresian sense of intimacy with God
  • The ability to help people to grow in their prayer and spiritual life
  • Deep knowledge of the history of Carmelite spirituality, its biblical roots and where it sits within the history of Christian spirituality and in particular contemplative Christian spirituality.
  • Experience of at-homeness with a living Carmelite community
  • Gaining a deep knowledge of the life, writing and teachings of Saints Simon Stock, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Brother Lawrence, Edith Stein and Francisco Palau. The candidates will have appropriated the disciplines they illuminate so compellingly: silence, solitude, community, contemplation, presence, prayer, listening, discernment, hospitality and integration.
  • A deeper self-awareness through working with a Carmelite spiritual director, peer supervision and intellectual, spiritual and emotional growth gained in the course.
  • Knowledge of how the history and selected practices within Western psychology can inform and support a candidate’s work in a spiritual direction.
  • The creation of a personal enhanced Carmelite Spiritual Direction model that integrates the professional skills candidates may bring into their practice of the Carmelite Spiritual Direction model. For example existing coaching, counselling or skills in lay, priestly or religious ministry in the Church or secular life can be integrated into the model.
  • A deepening of their understanding of Catholic worldview informed by scripture, the living tradition of the Church, the living magisterium, the lived experience of members of the Church who may live peaceably with the Church’s teaching and those who struggle with it.
  • Experienced mentoring and spiritual guidance being modelled both individually and in group leadership by experienced spiritual directors
  • An understanding of biblical Christian Anthropology and our core identity as Beloved of God, informed by insights from Carmelite saints
  • A portfolio of spiritual resources to use in one-to-one or group spiritual direction, e.g. journaling, images, symbols, etc.
  • An understanding of the use of Triads and one to one supervision to develop and reflect upon the effectiveness of their spiritual development practice

Course Features


The following are the key features of our unique programme. They are the ten features that make the Spiritual Direction Training Programme (CT) distinct.

Hybrid Model.

 The unique combination of residential and online learning makes it possible for people with various jobs and other commitments to have access to the programme without needing to give up these other commitments.

Focused in Structure and Approach.

The six-course modules taught over a two-year period by seasoned experts explore in-depth the essential topics in spiritual direction. They are delivered with sustained momentum which facilitates continuous learning while allowing dedicated time for exploring and experiencing the key features in the contemplative practice of spiritual direction.

Contemplative in Focus.

Contemplative prayer – with prayer understood in the Teresian sense as an intimate conversation with a friend – is Carmel’s essential contribution to the Church. The programme is intent on introducing participants to, and immersing them in, formats of learning and the practice of spiritual direction that will encourage them to grow in intimacy with God and in their own capacity for contemplative awareness, which is a way of being, living, seeing, listening and perceiving reality in an integrated and holistic fashion.

Authentically Catholic. Our Programme is based on a Catholic worldview with an emphasis on biblical principles. It strives to continue the work of the Spirit in the Church as articulated by Benedict XVI: “As she has always done, today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction not only to those who desire to follow the Lord closely but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his or her Baptism, that is, new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, especially those who have heeded the divine call to follow Christ closely, needs to be accompanied personally by a guide reliable in doctrine and expert in the things of God; this guide can help people to watch out for facile forms of subjectivism, making available their own knowledge and experience lived in the following of Jesus.” (Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Carmelite Pontifical Theological Faculty, “Teresianum”, Rome, 19 May 2011)

Ecumenical in Outreach.

The prayer of Christ, that all his followers may be one, and our common baptism impel us towards greater unity and thus Christians of all faith traditions are welcome on the Programme and our selection process deliberately encourages this diversity. We recognise that, as the Spirit is at work in all Christian traditions, our Programme provides a forum where the mutual enrichment of Christians from diverse faith traditions, ministerial experiences, as well as educational and cultural backgrounds, can be made possible.

Influenced by the Venerable Carmelite Tradition

Our Programme is founded on a tradition with an 800-year history from which has emerged a host of great saints and writers who have enriched the Church and guided countless pilgrims along the road of prayer and in their spiritual search including Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity and Edith Stein. Our curriculum incorporates the key contributions of Carmelite saints and mystics with regard to Christian spirituality and spiritual direction and encourages practical appropriation of the disciplines they illuminate so compellingly in their writings: solitude, silence, community, contemplation, presence, prayer, listening, discernment, hospitality and integration.

Led by Seasoned Practitioners.

All who contribute to our programme – speakers, mentors and facilitators – are experts in their fields with many years of experience in the practice of spiritual direction.

Communal in Emphasis.

Through our Carmelite Community of Spiritual Directors (CCSD) Covenant everyone involved in the programme – candidates, accompaniers, tutors, facilitators – are invited to identify themselves as a pilgrim and learning community whose integrity is founded in keeping their covenant commitments to one another. Dynamics of group spiritual companionship and direction are employed throughout the entire duration of the course.


Throughout the Programme, personal and interpersonal care remain in view. The accompanier’s role is to support and assist course participants, both one-on-one and in a small group. Mentors help to facilitate participants’ engagement with the learning process, integration of the insights from shared guidance and discernment of the journey towards ownership of the gift of spiritual direction.

Experiential and Practical Learning.

Each course module facilitates experiential and practical learning by providing opportunities for growth and integration gained from personal reflection and communal activities.

Course Content


For the Spiritual Direction Formation Programme, there are four five-day intensives in residence (two per year). The intensives for UK / Europe based students are held at the Carmelite Priory, Oxford. Intensives for North American students hold at the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery, St. Paul’s, Minnesota, US (2675 Benet Rd, St Paul, Minnesota 55109). The remainder are 12 online sessions (6 per year). The online programme is delivered in the form of real-time video conferencing and a phased release of reading materials and videos with tutorial support made available through the CACS learning platform.

The intensives begin at 4:00pm on the Wednesday and finishes on the following Monday morning after Traveller’s Eucharist and Breakfast.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction (Carmelite Tradition) will be awarded by St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London at the completion of the formation programme.

St Mary is a widely recognised Catholic institution of academic excellence and international leader for training for ministry. 

The Centre for Applied Carmelite Spirituality (CACS) is an Associate Centre of the Pontifical Institute of Spirituality (Teresianum), Rome.

***MONDAY 23rd – FRIDAY 27TH (UK)

Five of us from the Lectio Divina Group in Ireland joined the Spiritual Direction Training course which began in Sept. 20. We have been blessed as a Core Group and given a definite direction to follow together. This course has empowered us in our different leadership roles and has reflected on the larger group. The following is a summary of our thoughts.

Mary O Dwyer. The SDTC has been a journey of discovery and I have learned to engage with and look for a deeper meaning in life and in my own situation realising what is within my own grasp. The learning is informed by the wisdom of Carmelite spirituality.

Fr Alex and his dedicated team lead this Programme. While the course is welcoming, gentle and inclusive it is also rich in Spirituality, nurturing a deeper relationship with God through prayer and with neighbour. Like the first question in St Johns Gospel it offers an invitation to “come and see”. I am grateful I did.

Mary Ryan – This course has reawakened a spirit of prayer and trust for me. I am learning from Teresa to be aware that Jesus lives within me and in each person. I view life in a more meaningful way. God’s creation is so precious. I value God’s creatures’ I have become more aware of butterflies and wild flowers and the beauty of the world. This course has helped me to contemplate on the mystery of God’s love and worldly things have less meaning

Mary Harrington The course has been a wonderful boost for me as I progress on my Spiritual Journey. The Carmelite Ethos and this Programme is one of friendship, of acceptance and of positive affirmation. How wonderful it is to be surrounded by Spiritual friends if only on Zoom so far. My eyes and ears have been opened in a loving and gentle way to the lives of the saints of Carmel, their wisdom and their love of God and neighbour. The Carmelites in Boars Hill are continuing this legacy as they shine a light before us all.

Josephine Kearney The course has been enriching at a personal and spiritual level. I have already been saying less and listening more. I am beginning to see the fruits of this Holy Listening in my life. I have learned that my life can be gradually transformed through intimacy with God in prayer.

Theresa Hegarty I have found this course to be a light shining in darkness. It maps out a way for the journey by the stages St. Theresa outlines for me. Through getting to know St. Theresa I have a guide and a friend. The group that I am with have become a spiritual, loving, supportive family. I thank God for His providence and for leading me to do this course.

*** Please note that the September Intensive for the UK will be from Monday through Friday.

Suggested Costs

The suggested costs to enable us to offer this programme are outlined below:

ProgrammesYear 1Year 2
 Auditing (The audit option is available to students who wish to take the programme for personal enrichment or Continuing Professional Development (CPD). No assessments are required)
  £1,500/$2,100 £1,500/$2,100
  Postgraduate Diploma in Spiritual Formation and Accompaniment (awarded by St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London (subject to validation). £2,150 / $2,900 £2,150 / $2,900


Additional costs: Books and accommodation (during the Intensives) are not included in the above fees.

The closing date for September 2024 intake is 1st August 2024. For further information please contact admissions@carmelite.org.uk

Our quoted suggested prices are for tuition and refreshments during course days.


For those who wish to stay at the Carmelite Retreat Centre in Oxford during the Intensives, please email sdfp@carmelite.org.uk to find out about availability and the reduced rate for SDFP students and to book your accommodation. Carmelite Retreat Centre, Boars Hill, Oxford, OX1 5HB.

Those wishing to stay at the Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery, US, (2675 Benet Rd, St Paul, Minnesota 55109) for the intensives, please email Candida: candida.cacs@gmail.com or call +1 (909) 913-6465.

For any inquiries from the US please contact Candida: candida.cacs@gmail.com +1 (909) 913-6465

For those wishing to stay at Mazzanti House, 78 Mbagathi Ridge, Karen, Nairobi, Kenya, for Kenyan intensive please email please email sdfp@carmelite.org.uk. or call (+254) 759 598 008.

Application and Next Steps