Calgary Woman Brings Spiritual Direction to University Campus

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After teaching children for seven years in Calgary (Alta.), Pearl Nieuwenhuis sensed she was being called to a new vocation. “It was during a year of receiving spiritual direction that I began to recognize a growing sense of vocation in me of offering spiritual direction to others.”

At age 48, she embarked on a new career path and is now providing spiritual direction as part of the Christian Reformed Church’s campus ministry at the University of Calgary.

Spiritual direction is a practice in which individuals seek out a trusted spiritual guide or spiritual companion to accompany them on their journey through life. “At the heart of spiritual direction,” Nieuwenhuis said, “is knowing that the true spiritual director is God, whose love and compassion meets us in the honest, everyday, ordinary bits of life. In our culture, where it is hard to listen, spiritual direction is one graced way.”

Nieuwenhuis, a member of Calgary’s River Park CRC, took spiritual direction training and then completed a master’s degree in spiritual formation.

Paul Verhoef, CRC campus chaplain at the University of Calgary, invited Nieuwenhuis to volunteer one day a week at the university’s Faith and Spirituality Centre. In this academic and secular setting, Nieuwenhuis’s ministry of spiritual direction flourished. A variety of students, staff, and faculty, those with and those without faith histories but with a desire to listen to their lives in the company of another, sought her out. The next year, Nieuwenhuis started to receive a stipend for her work. She quickly became an important and respected part of the campus chaplaincy team. This year, the university itself asked her to offer spiritual direction two days a week.

While it is an opportunity to increase ministry at the University of Calgary, the request also increases the financial commitment of  Classis Alberta South & Saskatchewan (the regional group of churches). At its fall meeting, however, the classis unanimously committed itself to continue to sustain and support, financially and otherwise, Nieuwenhuis’s ministry.

Rich Braaksma, chair of the Calgary Campus Ministry committee, told classis delegates, “The love of God is spilling out and touching the lives of students, staff, faculty, believers, nonbelievers, and institutions. What a privilege to get to represent Christ in so many varied ways on campus.”

About the Author

A former nurse and chaplain, Janet Greidanus is a freelance news correspondent and long-time writer of the In Memoriam column for The Banner.