"I learned listening for God from Sister Sue and others at Dominican Center," Larry Slager said.
Larry, an early participant in Dominican Center at Marywood's Spiritual Formation and Direction Programs said his preliminary search for courses in the Presbyterian tradition pointed him to San Francisco.
A friend asked if he knew there was a spiritual direction program in Grand Rapids at Marywood. Raised in the Christian Reformed tradition, now a Presbyterian, he wasn't sure he would be welcomed to this Catholic program. He was assured it was interfaith. He recalls, "In my initial group of eight, there were several Protestants, a couple of Catholics, and a woman who was Jewish. Immediately, I felt embraced in this place; I never felt like an outsider."
“Being here at Dominican Center opened a whole new world for me through the relationships I found, through books I was reading. This place was very life-giving for me. Dominican Center is a treasure.”
With an educational and professional background in clinical social work and marriage and family counseling, Larry described his early approach to counseling as problem-based. “As a clinician, you tend to listen for the pathology, through that sieve of clinical training, the model is diagnostic. Find a problem to fix.”
“Spiritual Direction is quiet, a respectful listening for the movement of God,” Larry described. “In the contemplative model taught by the Dominican Sisters, I learned that I’m allowed to listen and wonder with others about life, about God, to explore where God’s spirit may have been present within life experiences. Early on I recognized that this more contemplative model, this creating spiritual space for relationship with God, was the model I wanted to provide to others.”
That’s the question Larry now welcomes and listens for in his interactions with men at Guiding Light Mission and in his own Spiritual Direction practice at Marywood.
The men who arrive at Guiding Light Mission are without home or means as a result of addiction, they have worn out their welcome with family and friends, lost jobs and homes. These are the kinds of places where, at first, desperation shouts louder than hope.
In this mission, in many places like it, “Faith doesn’t always come with a perfect language, a perfect practice,” allowed Larry. “I have a directee who came to the mission when he was beyond hope, considering suicide. Out of the blue, this old AA buddy calls him, hears his depression and dejection, and says, `wait, I’m coming to get you. I know a place.’ He brought him to Guiding Light Mission. As his friend dropped him off at the door, my directee asked, ‘What made you call me?’ His friend looked upward and said, “George said to call you.”
Like the kind friend, Larry treads lightly with his choice of words, and so, for now, when describing some experiences, director and directee might refer to the spirit of “George.” Because, for now, the word “God” shall remain silent, safe for another day. And yet the two men share hope in faith.