When Sue Gibbons ’04 (DASD) attended a contemplative retreat at the Pacific Center for Spiritual Formation in the late 1990s, her life was forever changed. Introduced to the value of contemplative retreats by Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Gibbons loved all of its offerings, which she described as “bringing my heart and mind together.” The retreat was led by Spiritual Director Rev. Carol Saysette ’80 (M.Div.), ’95 (D.Min.).
“I had never heard of a spiritual director,” recalls Gibbons, who worked with nonnative English speakers as a speech pathologist until her retirement in 2014. “It’s somewhat of a misnomer. You’re not telling someone what to do, but noticing the threads where God’s spirit might be involved in one’s life.”
Gibbons described Saysette as a “booster shot” to her faith. “It was transformative, incorporating my deeper emotional and spiritual self,” shares Gibbons, who met with Saysette for years at the counseling center at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), which merged with the University of Redlands in July 2019, becoming part of a new U of R Graduate School of Theology.
During one of their sessions, much to her surprise, Saysette asked Gibbons if she ever considered becoming a spiritual director. Gibbons initially rebuked this idea, but Saysette persisted. “She continued to see gifts in me,” says Gibbons, “and I knew I had to explore it.”
Gibbons completed her Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction at SFTS in 2004. She recalls the combination of academic work and practical application directed by “excellent faculty.” Commencement at SFTS was a special moment for Gibbons, who was not originally expecting to participate. “I was not getting ordained or earning a master’s degree, but our program was still able to cross the stage.” Having participated in commencement ceremonies at previous institutions, this one was different for Gibbons. “I was completing something that was aligned with who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do with my life. It meant so much to me that my family could witness that impactful event.”
Since then, Gibbons has practiced spiritual direction throughout the Berkeley area. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her husband recently reviewed their estate plans, including a bequest for SFTS and its Endowment for Christian Spirituality.
“I have such deep gratitude, and I wanted to return that gratitude in this way,” shares Gibbons, who is the first individual to be inducted into the Montgomery Legacy Society since SFTS became part of the University of Redlands. “I have thoroughly valued my relationship with SFTS,” she says. “There is a deep sense of satisfaction in supporting what I think the world needs.”
If you have included SFTS in a bequest or in your estate plans like Gibbons has, please contact Molly Widdicombe, director of development, at 415-451-2805 or email@example.com. For other U of R planned gifts, please contact CortnerSociety@redlands.edu or 909-748-8358.
Editor’s Note: A version of this story first ran in the Summer 2020 issue of Chimes magazine.