Giving Witness: a practicum to preach in the Ignatian tradition of the Spiritual Exercises

The Ignatian Spirituality Institute is excited to partner with Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House to offer the Giving Witness Practicum, Monday July 24 - Friday July 28,  2023. Registration and more information about Bellarmine retreat house is available here

What is the Practicum?

This is a workshop providing instruction and formation for planning and giving talks rooted in Ignatian spirituality in parish missions, days of reflection, or preached retreats. The practicum will offer instruction and one-to-one mentoring regarding:

  • identifying what audiences want and need
  • developing themes and flow of presentation out of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius
  • formulating and framing presentations and talks rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius
  • best practices for use of hand-outs, technology, artwork, music, liturgies and sacramental symbols.
How is the Practicum presented?

During the practicum participants will:

  • attend plenary presentations
  • have ample time to work in small groups and individually
  • formulate and write presentations/talks
  • meet one-to-one with experienced mentors
  • be expected to prepare presentation/talk  
  • have opportunity for daily Eucharist and prayer
Who will attend the Practicum?

The practicum is designed for lay persons, Jesuits, priests, religious sisters and brothers, involved in or moving into offering:

  • presentations/talks on ignatian identity to faculty and staff at Catholic schools and parishes, especially Jesuit institutions
  • parish missions, catechetical formation
  • days/mornings of reflection for parish, school, church, retreat house, or other organizations.
  • preached or conference retreats at retreat houses

Participants will have personally prayed the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, preferably in a 19th annotation or 30-day retreat, or minimally having made numerous personal preached retreats.

When is the Practicum?

Monday, July 24 - Friday, July 28, 2023


Please register at Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House website here.


Carol Atwell Ackels

Carol Atwell Ackels currently serves as director of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute. She is a spiritual director in the ignatian tradition and Senior Ignatian Fellow of Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House. Appointed by the Jesuit Provincial, she served six years on the province Commission on Ministry--the group that discerns long-range planning for apostolic work of the Jesuits and their colleagues. She served as founding Director and Coordinator for the Toward Greater Freedom retreat at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, which led hundreds of parents and students through an experience of the Spiritual Exercises, and is co-author of Finding Christ in the World, a 12 week Ignatian retreat.

Ackels helps others as retreat director of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in various formats. She is regularly invited to give preached retreats throughout the United States, and also offers programs and days of reflection to parish and other oganizations throughout Texas and the Southwest. She has long experience in guiding others through 18th and 19th annotation retreats in everyday life, as well as five and eight day directed reteats. Ackels helps form others in retreat ministry through workshops, conferences, and the ongoing formation programs of ISI. 

Ackels holds a J.D. from SMU Dedman School of Law, and a M.A. in Leadership and Theology from Gonzaga University.  She is married and resides in Dallas, Texas. She and her husband are the parents of five delightful (now) adults and are proud and joy-filled grandparents of three.

Michael Graham, SJ

Fr. Graham recently ended his tenure as President of Xavier University in Cincinnati Ohio. His ministry has moved forward to expanding opportunities for pastoral ministry, especially through various retreats at the Midwest Jesuit Province network of retreat houses. Fr. Graham is also assisting Jesuit university trustees and senior executives understand better the Jesuit mission and identity of their schools so as to lead them more effectively and in fidelity to their origins. 

A native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Fr. Graham holds degrees from Cornell College, the University of Michigan and the Weston School of Theology (now, the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry).  He entered the Jesuits in 1978 and was ordained in 1988.

Fr. Graham was first Xavier University in 1984 as part of his early Jesuit training and returned in 1989 after ordination.   He became a tenured Associate Professor in the History Department in 1994 and was soon invited to lead the Development Office, which he did for five years. After serving as a kind of executive understudy to then president Fr. James E. Hoff, SJ for a year, he became Xavier’s President on January 1, 2001.  He retired from that position on June 30, 2021.  

Fr. Graham has a passion for the specifically Jesuit mission of higher education and brings his passion to pastoral and retreat ministry. He has collaborated with a variety of professionals in the area of Jesuit Mission and Identity to shape and support the Jesuit ethos of Xavier and other Jesuit universities. He helped found a campus center for dialogue that became a crucial hub for inter-religious conversation in the Cincinnati region, and whose work engaged a wide variety of constituencies and topics in areas of justice, sustainability, immigration and more.  He likewise championed diversity, inclusion and equity efforts and helped recruit and shape transformative leadership. Fr. Graham is a dynamic speaker, deep thinker, and generous leader from whom participants in the Giving Witness Practicum will greatly benefit.  

J. Michael Sparough, SJ

Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ is a retreat director and spiritual director at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington.  He holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and a Doctor of Ministry from St Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL. He is the founder of Charis, a national Jesuit retreat ministry for young adults in their 20s and 30s, and has trained spiritual directors at Loyola University-Chicago.  

A prolific writer and speaker, Fr. Michael has published books, CDs, and DVDs on prayer, discernment, and the sacraments with Franciscan Media, Paulist Press, Liturgical Training Publications, Loyola Press, and Heart to Heart. He is seen regularly on Shalom World Catholic Television and is heard regularly on Sacred Heart radio in Cincinnati and WSFI Catholic Radio in greater Chicagoland. His latest co-authored book is What’s Your Decision?  An Ignatian Approach to Decision Making and is published by Loyola Press.  Fr. Sparough's dynamic style and long years of experience will offer many gifts and guidance to participants of the Giving Witness Practicum. 


Monday, Jul.24, to Friday, Jul.28, 2023