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Por Educate Magis
Jul 2nd, 2019

Some of you might remember Fr. Bill Watson’s article and videos on the research and development of a real-life young adult spirituality program back in March 2016. Fr Bill and his colleagues researched and piloted the True Heart program in collaboration with schools in the USA and in Latin America. In this article Fr. Bill recounts the story of the True Heart Program and shares a sample of the engaging spiritual “exercises” used in this new publication.

TRUE HEART began with a project at Seattle’s O’Dea High School in 2014. Mr. Tom Schutte, then director of Campus Ministry, asked me to visit with some of his student leadership team over the course of the year. I was to present ideas on discernment in light of Ignatian Spirituality. I wish to thank Tom and his great students for helping us shape a version of St. Ignatius’ life story for this edition.

Working with Tom and his students gave us the idea for TRUE HEART. We realized, in light of our meetings, that there are not many good spiritual formation resources for young adults.

What gives TRUE HEART its depth and breadth is the up-to-date scientific research and day to day experiences associated with adolescents and young adults in the 21st century. TRUE HEART offers daily periods of reflection tightly woven with Scripture study leading to the desire to reach out to others from the students own awakening and new awareness. Marcella M. Nesbitt. Theology Instructor — McQuaid  Jesuit — Rochester, NY

The first idea to create something for young adults was to take the adult Forty Weeks program and redraft it for young adults. To that end, we worked with over one hundred Jesuit faculty from both Jesuit and Catholic highs across Latin America and the US to gain insights on how they would translate the experience of doing the Forty Weeks into ideas for a program for young adults. That Latin American part of this project was facilitated by a former SSI board member, Fr. Hermann Rodriguez, S.J. Thank you, Fr. Hermann.

As an educator I am so grateful to have a resource like TRUE HEART. This program will help students balance the connectivity they find through their devices with a deeper connection to what is going on in their hearts.  TRUE HEART will help young people discover a loving God who wants to walk alongside of them in the exciting and difficult journey of adolescence. I cannot wait to have my students benefit from this program. Jose Oyanguren. Headmaster – St. Augustine Prep – Managua, Nicaragua

After the project with Jesuit high school faculty, and when we had a working text, I asked Michael Gurian, founder of the Gurian Institute and New York Times bestseller, to work with me on the initial book concept. He worked with me on language in the exercises that would be appropriate for young adults. He also gave insights on how to pose reflection questions based on the content of the various exercises.

Once we had a working draft of the program incorporating Gurian’s suggestions, we launched a beta test of these re-drafted materials in multiple high schools in the US and Latin America, several young adult ministry programs and with seminary students. I wish to thank in particular Andrew Hoelperl and Marcella Nesbitt at McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester for their help with a great group of students.

In my years of work with high school students in retreat settings and teaching meditation classes, I find that the TRUE HEART resources are comprehensive and foundational for young adults to building stronger, long lasting experiences in the Lord as they seek purposeful direction in their lives as they are called to building the Kingdom of God. The spirituality program Fr. Bill Watson, SJ offers in TRUE HEART:  A Way to Selflessness, invites young adults to create, sustain and live out a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ using the spiritual practices of St. Ignatius Loyola but with a modern twist.

Young adults will encounter the Lord through time proven spiritual methods such as:

  • Unplugging intentionally from technology (distractions) during periods of time daily to remain open to the spiritual sphere of life.
  • Daily prayer periods that are rooted in the Ignatian Examen.
  • Spiritual exercises that point out roadblocks to living freely the spiritual life.
  • Young adults interacting and sharing with other young adult prayer companions.
  • Experiencing night vigils modeled on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.
  • Engaging with trusted mentors who can guide with wisdom, experience and faith.
  • This time of communion with God peels away the false self of the young adult, as a companion of Jesus, and feeds their authentic self that leads to spiritual maturation.Andrew K. Hoelperl. Theology Department Chair – McQuaid Jesuit – Rochester, NY

Also, thanks go to Fr. Dan Barnett, rector of Bishop White Seminary in Spokane, Washington and Fr. Derek Lappe, pastor of Mary, Star of the Sea in Bremerton Washington. Also, sincere thanks to Mr. Jose Oyanguren, headmaster of St. Augustine School in Managua, Nicaragua, for his assistance on the beta text with his students and faculty.

Finally, finishing work and refining suggestions came from Matthew Davidson, Ph.D., president for the Institute for Excellence & Ethics in Malinus, NY. My thanks to Matt for his “excellent” suggestions on the final shape of the two books in the series.

The TRUE HEART Program has a basic book for youth and young adults (15-28 years old). There are two editions of TRUE HEART PRACTICES (Color and Black & White with all the exercises extracted from the program for use in your ministerial settings. And there are the TRUE HEART AUDIO MEDITATIONS which are free and on our Soundcloud account.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (Hebrews 1, 1-2a)”. This is the core of TRUE HEART that the Sacred Story Institute has given us for our work with youth and young adults. TRUE HEART is a real effort to make the Word of God as near as it can be, for the new generations that hunger and thirst of an intimate encounter with their Creator. There are no magical tricks to change our lives, but the daring invitation to make fascinating treks to build a new way with the solid truths of what God has revealed to us in his Son. The TRUE HEART programs never discard the chief cornerstone, but hold fast to it, and give it a new language so it can be better heard and understood by a new generation. Rev. Hermann Rodríguez Osorio, S.J. Delegate for Mission, Jesuit Provincial’s Conference of Latin America (CPAL)

Download a Sample of True Heart exercises here.