Mentoring Practicum Discernment Sessions

Whenever a practicum discernment group meets, a mentor needs to be present – sitting unobtrusively apart from the discernment group as a non-anxious, prayerful presence.

As mentor:

  1. Take a back-up supply of Feedback Form for Practicum Discernment Group to each session.
  2. Participate with the group through silent prayer. Observe the proceedings, but do not intervene in the course of a session. If needed, offer suggestions before the convener begins a discernment session and/or offer a concise hint, such as, “Remember chapter 5,” during the break.
  3. At the end of the session make sure the convener has collected all of the completed feedback forms. Read all the forms; then offer suggestions to the discerners to help them reflect upon their experience. Help the group both to notice what went well and to think about things that might have been handled more effectively. Since it is useful for the mentor to know how the discerners perceive themselves before making comments, the information on the feedback forms provides helpful data for conducting the review. Sometimes the mentor can seem less critical by citing the group members’ observations. Focus especially on what worked well and be as gentle as possible with the criticism. Overanalyzing the session can interfere with the effectiveness of the discernment that is unfolding. Sometimes some written suggestions can be mailed to the group in lieu of an oral review session.

Every practicum discernment group needs a mentor. The training leaders may recruit help from other trained leaders or from trained discerners who have demonstrated a good grasp of the process. After each trainee has completed four practice sessions, the discerners-in -training may serve as mentors for the additional practicum sessions. Once the training is completed, mentors are no longer needed when discernment groups meet. Communities with a sufficient number of trained discerners may assign a prayer support person to each group. This person receives the focus person write-up in advance, then gathers with the group, but sits apart, supporting the discernment through constant prayer.

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