“…it’s important for me to give back…”
Ruffing (center) in Thailand, where she helped initiate a
(photo altered with Photoshop filter)
“I am a witness to students in my classes being able to link their work in social justice to a deep contemplative part of themselves. They see the relationship between their interior life and their work in the world,” says Janet Ruffing (Ph.D.’86), professor of the practice of spirituality and ministerial leadership at Yale Divinity School, and a Sister of Mercy. That is a gift, according to Ruffing, and it is one that stems from her early work in spirituality and spiritual direction at the GTU. Because she was on a full scholarship there, “it’s important for me to give back,” she says.
When she graduated from the GTU — a time when spiritual direction was still somewhat new — Ruffing was hired to develop a spiritual direction program at Fordham University. Over time, her work — grounded in pastoral practice and focused on kataphatic mysticism — led to invitations to teach spirituality and spiritual direction around the world, and in 2006, her program was recognized as preeminent by external reviewers.
In spring 2010, after 24 years as professor at Fordham, Ruffing was invited to teach masters students at Yale Divinity School. “My courses there recognize the need to equip clergy with knowledge and practice of spirituality,” Ruffing says. “There is a hunger in America for spirituality, but it’s often seen as opposed to religion. As ministers integrate spirituality and spiritual direction into their work, we are changing the way spirituality is viewed, and that’s thrilling to me.”
Also thrilling to Ruffing is the ability to influence others through writing, publishing, professional networking, and traveling. She has published five books and numerous articles on topics ranging from spiritual direction and supervision to mercy spirituality, female religious life and leadership, kataphatic mysticism, prayer, and other technical topics in spirituality. She recently completed To Tell the Sacred Tale: Spiritual Direction and Narrative to be published in March 2011 by Paulist Press. She taught in Korea last June and will be teaching in Hong Kong next March. She will also be serving as president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.“I’ve been so fortunate to have a full and satisfying career,” Ruffing says. “As I start my 25th year of teaching, I consider it important to support the institutions that gave me so much support and started me on my way.”