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Avila Institute: “Much Needed Haven”

Recently, we received some correspondence from Sister Catherine Seychell, who shared her journey to the Avila Institute and how it continues to impact her. We’re reprinting it here, because of what a powerful story it is. We’ll be posting information on upcoming courses soon.

Sr Catherine Avila Institute

My spiritual director had long been trying encouraging me to follow a course in spiritual direction. I was reluctant because in my country there is only such courses following the spirituality of St Ignatius. I know that my spirituality favours St. Teresa of Avila. My Congregation has St Teresa of Avila as its main patron saint. Our foundress, Servant of God M. M. Teresa Nuzzo, loved this saint and we know that she used to read her work and sleep with her writings under her pillow.

For over 30 years, I had a spiritual director who also loved St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross because he himself had as his spiritual director, a discalced Carmelite Father. My spiritual director used to tell me also that I have the character of St. Teresa of Avila, so it is very understandable that I wanted to follow Carmelite spirituality as the basis for my further exploration of my spiritual life.

My present spiritual director happened to direct me to a Benedictine brother, who was a big blessing for me. He sent me the link of and told me, ‘In this website you have all you need for your spiritual direction and growth.’ It really proved to be so.

I followed the links and read them. I was feeling really being directed and truly found a guide, light, and encouragement for what I was searching for. However God had much more in store for me through this website.

After some time I explored the Avila Institute which actually carried courses in spiritual direction. It was to my amazement that I saw that although in my country – a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta – there was not such a course with the Carmelite spirituality, yet God gave me this wonderful opportunity through the webinar (the way the courses are streamed online).

A new, beautiful chapter started in my life. Through the courses which I have taken through the Avila Institute, my spiritual life has taken a new stance. I am impressed by the solid spirituality of our lecturers. I am encouraged to strive further in my spiritual growth. Through the material I would need to read and reflect upon, I feel my spiritual life has gone deeper and deeper. However, the aspect which I feel I am gaining most is the stability which my spiritual growth is acquiring.

The fact that I go through regular reflections, input, and integration, has contributed to this stability. I always wanted to take my spiritual life seriously, however my involvement in ministry took much of my mental, physical, and spiritual energy.  I found myself finishing a much demanding 12 year period of serving my congregation at the helm of its leadership. This was preceded with 13 years as Headmistress of a primary school. Both these ministries were very demanding and at times challenging.

When I came to the termination of this service, and Avila Institute were a wonderful, much needed haven for me where I could claim back being quiet, alone with the Alone! This does not mean that my ministry drove me away from God! Far from this! The ministry itself drew me very close to God because I knew that all depended on Him. Yet the human and mental, and I must say also, in some way or another, even the spiritual exhaustion was there. I felt I needed to reclaim myself as I gasp for air.

Avila was my secluded haven where I could grasp this most needed oasis!

This enrichment I am receiving personally is definitely having its positive ripple effect in my ministry. I find myself giving much of what I reflect upon to my sisters in community, for whom I am the ‘superior’ spiritual animator.  I use the material I receive, (the reflections and material I get from the Avila Institute) in my mentoring, journeying, and directing spiritually the three young Junior sisters whose formation I am in charge of.

In all this I must express my deep and sincere gratitude to all the sponsors and benefactors of and the Avila Institute. Yes, consecrated life really needs revival. It is such a beautiful thing to be consecrated to God! Yet, it is such a pity, that even persons in consecrated life let ourselves be carried away with the materialistic culture of today’s society. We really need to delve deeply in the source of our Alpha and Omega.

We need your prayer, more than your money. Yet your money is helping us to delve deeper in our commitment to God and to His people.

I am also responsible for the organization of initial and ongoing formation of consecrated persons in my country (Malta).

May the Lord bless you all who are sharing in the richness, the true and everlasting richness, which your earthly richness is helping us and yourselves to invest upon. My congregation is of very limited financial income and is mainly engaged in poor, missionary countries.

I know that not only the rich people contribute. I have come in touch with persons, who even forego essential things, even to the extreme of foregoing buying medicine in order to contribute – I am not giving this example to encourage anyone to do so, but to show the extent of generous persons who put their ‘richness’ at the service of a cause which has its goals to reach out to eternal good.

If it were not for the generous people who contribute and sponsor, it would have been impossible for my congregation to sponsor my studies. I do not really like to call them studies, though they have high academic level, yet I look at them as real, spiritual, and personal enrichment. I appreciate much the fact that Avila Institute gives importance to the real important things, i.e. the integration of what we will be receiving, in our own everyday living.

Very willingly I wake up once a week at 2:00 a.m. in order to follow the webinar classes. I go to sleep with the eagerness to prepare my alarm clock to wake me up half an hour before the time in order to get prepared and take a strong cup of coffee in order to keep me fully awake and attentive.

May God bless all my benefactors, professors, friends, and all. The Avila Institute is my Alma Mater! I feel proud of it and that I belong to it! You all are part of my solid and stable spiritual growth which I am experiencing as a student of the Avila Institute and from the material I read posted at

May God bless each and all! When we meet in heaven, I want to thank you personally.

Sr Catherine Seychell, DSH*

*Daughters of the Sacred Heart


For more information on any of our programs at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, please contact our admissions counselors at or visit

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About Avila Institute

Candace MacMillan and Nicole Garcia are Admissions Counselors for the Avila Institute. They are excited to speak with anyone who is interested in learning more about the Avila Institute. All those discerning the Avila Institute are in their prayers. Know that if you feel even a tiny pull or interest, Nicole and Candace hope to hear from you! To learn more about the School of Spiritual Formation or the Graduate Program at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, please contact Nicole or Candace at or 520-429-4524.

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  • Jeanette

    Very well said! Thanks for you witness Sister Catherine!

    • LizEst

      Yes, wonderful testimony…as well, it is a joy to have Sister Catherine attending the Avila Program. We are blessed with her insights!

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