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Franciscan sister incorporates healing in spiritual direction

Through spiritual direction one-to-one and in retreats, Franciscan Sister Celeste Crine incorporates healing arts that integrate body and spirit to help people discover God in their lives, deepening their relationships with God and their awareness that God loves them.

Franciscans believe “we each are a reflection of God’s loving goodness when we discover that we are loved,” she said.

Sister Celeste Crine
Sister Celeste Crine

“My stance is holistic.  From my early religious life, I felt it was important to integrate body and spirit, to use the body to go deeper into healing.  The more balanced our mind, body and spirit are, the more whole and holy we become,” said Sr. Celeste.

While many equate St. Joseph’s Family Center at 1016 N. Superior with its counseling and classes to enhance family relationships, she said the center also offers healing arts and meeting spaces for people of all faiths and traditions.

Its 25 staff members serve more than 1,400 people each year.

Along with helping people develop to their potential, the center, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, has a tradition of hospitality, welcoming everyone in the belief that each is “God’s special handiwork” who has a “right to be fully alive” and is “capable of growth.”

She describes St. Joseph Family Center in Spokane as “an oasis of spiritual serenity and beauty,” and as a place to come, meditate and pray.  The Franciscan Place at SJFC identifies the services of spirituality, retreats, hospitality and healing arts as distinct from the counseling at the center.

People seek spiritual direction, she said, for many reasons: to deepen their relationship with God, discover faith, find meaning in life, reignite the faith they once abandoned or be silent in the midst of the world’s busyness.

Some who come are in their 30s and others in their 70s.  Sister Celeste said some come for only six months to deal with a specific question.  She may journey with others for several years of their spiritual quest.

Although she did not go to Catholic schools and was not sure what it meant to be a nun, she realized as a junior in high school that she was called to be one.

She found the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia in a ministries catalogue and was drawn to pictures of sisters who ran schools and a hospital in Trenton, N.J., where she lived.

After studying elementary education for a year in college, Sister Celeste entered the congregation and earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Our Lady of Angels in 1971 and a master’s in Christian spirituality in 1985 at Creighton University.

Sister Celeste taught nine years at a parish in Lincroft, N.J., and two years in Massachusetts before studying at St. Louis University to prepare her to train the congregation’s novices.

For seven years, she was an associate pastor for a parish.  After serving from 1982 to 1991 at St. Leo’s in Lincroft, she went to the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, N.J., where the congregation’s college and mother house are located.  She was there until 2004, doing spiritual direction and retreats. 

Seeking a change, she learned about the opening in spiritual direction at St. Joseph’s in Spokane. 

Sr. Celeste works primarily with women, beginning “where they are and helping them go where they want to go in their spiritual development.”

“Some come into their own identity and come from their own spirituality to growth,” she said.  “Many women seek deeper intimacy in relationships, connecting with people. Others seek improved faith life and spirituality for people busy with family life, work and balancing both, keeping centered to grow deeper,” she said. 

Describing spiritual direction as companionship with someone on a journey, Sister Celeste explained that it involves three characters—the director, the directee and the Holy Spirit.

“I listen with the Spirit to what is happening in the person’s life and discover  with them where the Spirit of God is leading them.  As each deepens her spiritual journey it usually leads her to become more active in the community—the general community or a faith community, moving beyond a ‘me and God’ mindset,” she said.

The healing arts offered at the center include listening, prayer, Tai Chi Chih and Christian-Buddhist meditation.

In a Buddhist-Christian meditation series she and a colleague Dori Langevin led, they shared the common ground of the faiths, “areas we share, as well as how we differ,” she said.

Sister Celeste describes Tai Chi Chih as healing energy and meditation in movement. 

“Movement helps a person become centered, aware of feeling grounded, aware of breathing and focused on energy flowing through the body,” she said.  “It helps people feel rooted like a tree and flowing like water.  That way of being can take over, giving us rooted strength and spiritual energy. It helps our energy, circulation and balance.”

The center also offers yoga, massage and reflexology as ways to help people become more integrated in their spiritual, physical and emotional lives.

Sister Celeste also offers peer supervision for other spiritual directors as mutual support and to help them improve their skills.

She lives in community with four sisters in the area across the street on Sharp St. 

“Being a woman religious now is about constant change,” Sister Celeste commented.

Having entered the congregation at the time of Vatican II, she knew changes were ahead. 

Change came gradually and included shifting from wearing habits to clothing like everyone else wears; shifting from just teaching and hospital work to various ministries, and shifting from living in large communities to living in small groups, connected with the larger community through gatherings several times a year.

“Some live alone because of their ministry and need to make an effort to connect with the larger community,” Sister Celeste said.

In earlier years, there was more silence, but now there is more sharing about faith experiences, ministry insights and community involvements, plus a more collaborative leadership style, she said, noting that the women religious celebrate each other’s gifts, talents and ideas.

For information, call 483-6495 or email sjfc@stjosephfamilycenter.org.